No accidental tourists: Survey says visitors love our water, loathe our traffic

REGION – Our regional economy is diversifying, but it should be no

surprise that 99.7 percent of respondents in the 2008 TCBN Tourism

Survey believe tourism still contributes a "significant amount" to our local economy. More than 370 TCBN readers took part in the survey, which uncovered some interesting findings, ranging from the economic impact

of our region's major festivals to perceptions about how tourists are

treated by locals.


The Big Draws

It looks like Grand Traverse area residents can agree on one thing – that natural resources are what make our region great. In response to an open-ended question, 46 percent of survey participants cited water and natural beauty as the "best thing about visiting Traverse City." Ranking behind those factors were beaches, landscaping, and downtown Traverse City. When asked what could be done to improve the region as a tourist destination, readers pointed to increased promotion of the area. Karl Bastian of Greenlight Marketing noted, the region should "work closely with the State to promote TC on a larger scale."

Likes & Dislikes

Readers spoke out about what visitors like and dislike about our region. The top four responses, in order, were overall beaches, scenery, wineries and watersports. Sporting events, casinos, and art exhibits ranked at the bottom. Traffic was what readers said visitors dislike the most about our area, followed by crowds and congestion.

"While traffic and congestion are a concern, I think the issue is larger for local residents than it is a deterrent for visitors," said Brad Van Dommelen, president of the Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau.

"The Festival Factor"

Comparing the economic impact of the major local festivals, 59 percent believe the National Cherry Festival currently contributes most to our local economy, with the relative newcomer the Traverse City Film Festival garnering 32 percent. However, 62 percent of respondents believe that 10 years from now those roles will reverse-the Film Festival will take over that position as most impactful on the region.

Weekly House Rentals

An ongoing local controversy was also addressed, as readers were asked to weigh in on the ability of Traverse City property owners to rent their homes by the day or week. 63.4 percent of respondents believe that propery owners should be allowed to rent their properties however they want. Just 17 percent believe daily or weekly rentals should be prohibited.