Who’s Coming In 2016? The Year In Group Business

The region continues to attract visitors to the area for business purposes as well as vacationers and new residents. And the reasons are not that different: Natural beauty, a welcoming atmosphere, and space to do what they like, or at least what they need to do.

For those looking to book group business here, the area’s resorts offer plenty of well-designed meeting space, catering, and options for attendees’ down time, ranging from golf to skiing to spa treatments. Add in the rest of the region’s amenities, and it’s easy to see why more and more conventions are calling the area their (temporary) home.

“It’s all those experiences that are available. It’s all part of the positive brand image,” said Brad Van Dommelen, President and CEO at Traverse City Tourism.

It makes the meeting business a boon for not only attendees but for their families. “The region is very attractive for spouses and families,” agreed Van Dommelen. “There’s shopping, wineries, breweries, the dunes, tall ships, golf, paddle boarding, bike trails. There are a lot of cultural activities in addition to wonderful meeting space. It offers the whole picture.”

Getting the word out about the facilities and the region is a key consideration to gaining and keeping convention business. “It’s gaining in popularity. A lot of it is driven by marketing outside the state,” said Van Dommelen.

Ryan Buck, Director of Sales at Grand Traverse Resort in Acme, said such marketing has become a key component for his business, especially for people that aren’t familiar with Traverse City or northern Michigan. Like him, for example. “When I heard about this job, I thought, ‘Where is Traverse City?’ Then I heard it (Grand Traverse Resort) had 90,000 square feet of meeting space,” he said.thanks

By virtue of that size, Grand Traverse Resort is home to the region’s largest groups. Its array of rooms for meetings, including the massive Governor’s Hall, enables it to host groups of over 1,000 people. Pair that with its nearly 600 rooms and condos, and it can go head to head with facilities in much larger cities.

GTR3 (MP)Many of the groups that hold meetings at Grand Traverse Resort are repeat business, some having returned to the location year after year. “Our people understand the critical importance of the groups. They are the bulk of our business,” said Buck.
He said for him, such returning business was eye-opening. “As a Chicago guy, or Miami or San Francisco, I never could say welcome back (to groups). There’s 70+ luxury hotels in Chicago, there’s not that loyalty,” he said. Yet at Grand Traverse Resort, many groups choose to continue to hold their conventions there. He said for them, “It’s like coming home.”


Those less familiar with the region are enticed through a variety of means. The Pure Michigan marketing campaign helped bring greater awareness of the state’s and region’s attractions. Van Dommelen cited TC Tourism’s work with HelmsBriscoe, the meetings procurement and site selection agency, and with CVent, a cloud-based company that specializes in meetings management technology. The latter offers web-based software for meeting site selection, online event registration, event management and email marketing. It matches the wants and needs of meeting planners with potential host cities or facilities anywhere around the globe, so even planners who aren’t looking specifically at this area could find exactly what they require in northern Michigan.

Either way, when they get to Traverse City, Buck said the goal is to wow them so much they want to come back. “A huge pull for us is how cool Traverse City is,” said Buck. “Companies that have traveled internationally and have seen it all say, ‘What have you got?’ It has the best of all worlds, without the cost, pretension and headaches.”

So much so that business continues to rebound from the lows of the recession era. “Our group business continues to grow. In 2015 we had the best year since 1998,” Buck said.

The largest groups coming to the area in 2016 (all at Grand Traverse Resort):

Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals MASC/MAHS Conference

Purpose is to further develop student leaders into productive members of their own community and the community they choose to live in.

April 13-18


Reformed Church – Genesis 2016 Youth Ministries

Middle School and Youth Group convention of the Reformed Church of America.

March 2-7


Michigan Health Occupations Students of America

National student organization endorsed by the U.S. Department of Education and the Health Science Technology Education Division of ACTE to promote career opportunities in the health care industry and enhance the delivery of quality health care to all people.

April 12-16


Northern Michigan Small Farms Conference

Serves as a vehicle to promote and build a local vibrant agriculture community, to equip the small farm community with the tools to be successful, and as a forum for the exchange of ideas within the small farm community

Jan. 29-31


The Grand Lodge F. & A.M. of Michigan

Statewide meeting of fraternal group of Freemasons.

May 21-25


Center For Automotive Research

Provides insight, analysis and commentary on automotive issues including manufacturing, policy, economics, technical and economic development and labor.

July 30-Aug. 6


Munson Medical Center

Northern Michigan’s largest health care provider’s convention.

April 27-28


Institute for Professionals in Taxation

Informational and educational forms and discussions for IPT members focused on topics most important to property, sales and use, state business income and value added tax practitioners and for credits and incentives professionals

June 12-15


Michigan Association of Community Mental Health Boards

Conference offering seminars and courses to mental health professionals

October 23-25


Michigan Association of Chiropractors

Annual convention of state association is one of the largest chiropractic events in the U.S.

April 28-May 1


TBA Intermediate School District

Annual conference

August 30-31


In addition, the Resort hosts the Special Olympics Michigan Annual Winter Games in February, with over 1,700 people, and is part of the hosts for the Michigan Iceman in November, which brings over 6,000 people in.