When the 2008 economic crisis sent Michigan spiralling downward toward a of recession, the state’s tourism industry faced a few rocky years.
But thanks to a steadying economy and gas prices, warm and dry fall and summer months, increasing consumer confidence and help from the Pure Michigan national marketing campaign, travel and tourism spending in Michigan has continued to rebound and increased in 2012. Upward trends are expected to continue throughout 2013.
According to the recently released 2013 Michigan Tourism Outlook report, tourism spending increased about 6 percent, total hotel occupancy increased by 3 percent and destinations including the National Parks and the Henry Ford Museum experienced large visitor increases in 2012.
The report was compiled by Sarah Nicholls, an associate professor in the Department of Geography, and tourism assistant professor Dan McCole. It analyzes Michigan’s tourism spending, hot spots and areas of growth in 2012, while also forecasting what the state could expect in 2013.
There weren’t any significant regressions in Michigan’s tourism in 2012, Nicholls said.
McCole said he forecasts Michigan’s tourism spending to increase by 5.5 percent in 2013, with the volume of travelers increasing by 3 percent. According to tourism trends, he forecasts areas in southwest Michigan, such as Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo, and Petoskey and Traverse City in the northern Lower Peninsula to be some of the tourism hot spots this year.
He said the buzz about Michigan’s beer, wine and food industries is expected draw travelers to some to those areas.
“There are always risks. The sequestration — that could damage the economy and send us back into recession, and if that were to happen, then maybe (what) we forecasted wouldn’t pan out,” he said. “But 5.5 percent (in spending) is pretty good, mostly because Michigan is growing as a tourism destination.”
Nicholls said the Pure Michigan campaign has reached people across the country and world and has helped draw them to the Great Lakes State.
The report is evidence Michigan is one of the top up-and-coming states in the country to visit, Nicholls said.
“More people are aware of Michigan as a tourism destination,” she said. “The people who are coming and are having a good experience, they are going back home and sharing the good news about this undiscovered state.”
The idea of discovering what Michigan offers is exactly what Grand Ledge native Josh Davis, a natural resource recreation and tourism senior, did when he came to MSU and realized the unique characteristics of Lansing. He wants to work in the tourism industry and help “get the word out” about his state.
“I think there are innumerable towns in the state that encompass the Pure Michigan concept,” he said. “It’s not just about being up north — it’s about friendliness, nature and having a great experience while you are here.”
When he takes an internship in Holland, Mich., Davis said he plans on taking a weekend trip this summer to Charlevoix — one of his favorite Michigan destinations — and relax by its glistening lakeshore.