Pursue Your Pure: The comeback of Michigan’s tourism industry

It goes without saying that the pandemic has changed everything, including the way we travel, the places we want to visit and the things we want to do. We are looking for new experiences and new opportunities, from bustling urban centers to the hidden gems off the beaten path.

Simply put, people look at travel as a way to live with passion. The Michigan travel industry needs to embrace that spirit and adjust how we do business to support the traveler’s evolving needs and expectations. People want to travel now more than ever. They are seeking destinations that offer diverse experiences, the opportunity to meet new people, places that give them access to healthy activities, and the chance to create new, lasting memories.

The latest research from Tourism Economics is showing that pent-up demand will motivate travelers to hit the road in near-record numbers this summer, and with electric vehicle charging stations being strategically placed in state parks and other tourist locations around the state, we’re excited to become home to a more sustainable EV road trip as mobility solutions evolve.

We expect travelers to stay closer to home this season. The survey found that 62% will visit places with friends and family, 40% will go to places with water and 35% will look for local and unique places to eat and shop. It’s apparent that travelers will be looking for destinations like Pure Michigan.

Michigan remains on top of our competitive set of places to visit, with the Pure Michigan campaign continuing to resonate with potential travelers. We see this through tourism impact studies being conducted on behalf of the state, demonstrating that even as the epidemic was starting to wane, the campaign influenced 544,000 trips to Michigan where visitors spent an average of $1,153 each, generating nearly $39 million in state tax revenue for the state. We are optimistic that, with a funded tourism campaign and the easing of travel restrictions, we are moving the needle in the right direction for the future of Michigan travel and the small businesses it supports.

What is it we’re doing to promote travel to and throughout the state? Just recently, we launched our warm weather season advertising campaign, which invites travelers to “Pursue Your Pure,” with engaging TV and radio spots and other efforts featuring the many ways visitors can enjoy and explore our diverse state. The free Pure Michigan Summer Travel Guide is also available, distributed with select Meredith publications, at Michigan Welcome Centers and available as a universally accessible digital guide on www.michigan.org.

Our goals are lofty, to move beyond being a destination at the top of people’s list to sustainably help destinations grow and to support the small businesses that are the backbone of our economy. Talent has proven to be one of the biggest challenges preventing our small businesses from getting back to their pre-pandemic levels. We are at a turning point in our industry that must be addressed.

It is vitally important that we shift our culture to help attract and retain the talent we so desperately need.  We need to become culture-centric employers by treating our team members as the work family that they are, by showing them the important role they play to change lives, to make a difference. Because of their work, priceless memories are made. To get people back to work, both employers and the customers they serve need to show appreciation for their work. We need to create a cultural shift to demonstrate the work they do is of value.

Michigan’s travel industry is a key pillar of our economy. It’s at the core of who we are; how we self-identify. In order for our state to grow in a sustainable fashion, I am convinced that industry members and residents alike need to concentrate our efforts around being welcoming to all. We need to earn the reputation around the world as a place that offers the very best travel experience to everyone who visits – and by working together, this can be done.

There are so many challenges still ahead but with every single step forward, we are closer to meeting our goal of returning to a healthy, sustainable industry. Little by little, we will return – and when we do, we will be better, we will be stronger, and we will be more resilient.

Dave Lorenz is vice president of Travel Michigan at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. To learn more about how you can Pursue your Pure this summer and all year round, go to Michigan.org