Tourism Update

Last month at the Governor's Conference on Tourism, Michigan's tourism industry received great news about the impact of the state's popular and award-winning Pure Michigan campaign: In 2011, it drew 3.2 million new visitors to Michigan – visitors who generated $1 billion in spending and paid $70 million in state taxes.

In fact, for every dollar the state invested in the campaign, it received $4.90 in new taxes – a significant return on investment!

For the first time, tourism spending from out-of-state visitors exceeded spending from travelers originating from within the state. This represents a milestone for the state's tourism industry and is a trend that's expected to continue.

We in the tourism industry were extremely pleased with these results. But none of us – including the Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau (TCCVB) – have any intention of resting on our laurels. The positive results of the Pure Michigan campaign, and the equally encouraging results we have experienced in TC, have inspired and energized us to do even more.

Fueled by a larger budget (the result of a 2010 legislative change that enabled an increase in the lodging assessment paid by visitors to the Traverse City area) the TCCVB has implemented a more aggressive marketing and advertising campaign.

It's true that the Pure Michigan campaign is generating huge new interest in Michigan as a travel destination. But as a destination within Michigan, Traverse City must go a step further. Our job is to persuade consumers that if they want to actually discover that Pure Michigan experience, they have to come to Traverse City. Therefore, the TCCVB has greatly expanded its efforts to keep our message in the marketplace on a year-round basis to build our destination brand in key regional markets.

Traverse City is a remarkable community that offers its visitors wonderful tourism experiences in whatever season they choose. With our range of seasonal outdoor recreation choices, excellent lodging and dining options, wine country experiences and unique shopping opportunities, Traverse City is a true four-season destination.

Our marketing and promotion efforts are designed to build business volume in the non-summer months while maintaining our competitiveness as a summer destination. We want consumers to understand that great experiences are available in Traverse City all year.

Throughout the first quarter of 2012 the TCCVB waged an aggressive promotional campaign unlike anything we have done before. As a result, we have experienced a 31 percent increase in visitor inquiries for Traverse City information over the same time period last year.

For the second year in a row the TCCVB is partnering with Travel Michigan for the national Pure Michigan cable television campaign. The Traverse City commercials began airing in mid-April and are scheduled to run the weeks of April 16 and 23, May 7 and 14 and June 4. Our commercial spots will air on ten cable networks including Bravo, A&E, the Food Network, HGTV, The Weather Channel, Fox News, the Travel Channel, the Cooking Channel, MSNBC and the Golf Channel.

In all, there will be over 450 national Traverse City spots airing, with an estimated audience of nearly 63 million consumers. That's a lot of people being exposed to our Traverse City destination brand!

And although domestic leisure travel will likely always be our most valuable market, the U.S. is projecting significant growth in international tourism arrivals. The TCCVB is working with partners like Travel Michigan and Great Lakes USA (a consortium of Great Lakes states) on a series of international marketing efforts to position ourselves for growth in this area of travel. Our current efforts are focused on the United Kingdom and the German-speaking markets of Western Europe, but we anticipate future activity with our partners in Asian markets such as Japan, South Korea and China.

This international campaign comes at a particularly good time, since the U.S. is just launching its first-ever initiative for tourism promotion, called Brand USA – a public/private partnership to market the U.S. to international visitors.

Since tourism is a significant economic catalyst that supports a wide range of business sectors in our region, the TCCVB is pleased that Gov. Snyder and our state Legislature support funding for the Pure Michigan campaign. Furthermore, we are excited by the prospects for continuing to build TC's tourism brand as a four-season destination to provide economic stimulus and jobs for our community.

Brad Van Dommelen is president/CEO of the Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau;