Banner Image

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Governor's Tourism Conference

Governor’s tourism conference coming
Pete Daly

The most important gathering of the Michigan tourism industry in 2012 is slated for Sunday and Monday, March 25 and 26, at the Amway Grand Plaza, and it may draw 700 or more attendees.

The Pure Michigan Governor’s Conference on Tourism 2012 is hosted by the state tourism promotion arm, Travel Michigan, plus Michigan State University and the Michigan Lodging & Tourism Association.

The theme of this year’s conference is “Delivering on the Pure Michigan Promise,” with the focus on the Michigan tourism industry’s strategic future for the next five years. Participants in the industry will learn how to work with economic developers and regional and local officials to help grow the business at home through tourism marketing and partnerships.

Keynote presentations will be made by Gov. Snyder; Peter Greenberg, national travel expert and CBS News travel editor; and Joel Secundy, vice president of Strategic Outreach for Brand USA, the new international tourism promotion agency for the United States.

The Michigan Lodging & Tourism Association is actually producing the conference, according to its president/CEO, Steve Yencich.

Yencich said the “continued growth and expansion of that Pure Michigan branding campaign” is probably the No. 1 concern of the tourism industry throughout the state.

Snyder’s proposed budget includes $25 million for continuation of the Pure Michigan national marketing campaign.

“Thanks to the governor and the support of the Legislature, we do have access to 21st Century Jobs Fund monies which are being appropriated in the amount of $25 million annually, and we believe that fund is secure for the next several years,” said Yencich. “However, the industry is still concerned and wants to work toward the establishment of a true long-term funding mechanism for that award-winning (marketing) campaign.”

Experience Grand Rapids President Doug Small noted that there are still “uncertainties that surround Michigan’s economy and subsequently its annual budget,” adding that “it is imperative that the tourism industry continue to work diligently to deliver on the Pure Michigan investment and promises that the brand promotes. Though very thankful that the governor understands the value of tourism to this state, we must continue to show results, thus allowing for sustained funding for years to come. More strategic alliances and collaborations between the tourism industry and economic development partners should be encouraged in order for us to grow state revenues and lead the effort to put Michigan back firmly on its feet, and you can count on Grand Rapids to take a lead role with this initiative.”

Although the state’s official 2011 statewide tourism figures haven’t been compiled yet, Yencich said 2010 showed “a 21 percent increase in the number of vacationers coming in from other states.”

He quickly added that in that same year, there was a 6 percent increase in tourist activity by Michigan residents within the state.

Michigan residents spending their vacation time and money within the state “remains pivotally important to the industry,” noted Yencich.

That number began dwindling along with the loss of 1 million jobs in Michigan over the last 10 years, “culminated by the bankruptcies of Chrysler and GM, and all the parts manufacturers and suppliers. The ripple effect made itself felt for literally all of that 10-year period, so to see the rebound of 6 percent in that instate resident (tourist) base is a wonderful sign.”

The numbers are from Travel Michigan’s annual study by the Longwood research firm.

The Pure Michigan campaign “most decidedly” is working, added Yencich.

Hotel/motel occupancy rates are a key indicator of the health of the tourism industry in every market, according to Yencich, and Michigan’s hotel occupancy levels have led the country, in terms of percentage increase, since the summer of 2009, he said — “and have been doing so virtually every month since that time.”

At the end of 2011, according to Yencich, the average hotel/motel occupancy rate across the United States was 60 percent; in Michigan, it was 55.3 percent. In Detroit alone, the occupancy rate was 59.8 percent.

In terms of an increase in the occupancy rate from 2010 to 2011, the U.S. increase was 4.4 percent, according to Yencich, while Michigan’s increase was 6.9 percent “and Detroit’s increase was 10.2 percent — and that’s the mark of Pure Michigan.”

For five years in a row, ending in 2009, Michigan had the lowest hotel/motel occupancy rate in the nation. The Pure Michigan marketing strategy kicked in around 2009.

“If anyone is looking for evidence as to the impact and efficacy of the Pure Michigan campaign, they need only look at numbers like these,” said Yencich.

So, what about that gasoline price? Some business publications such as Forbes have mentioned predictions of gas reaching $5 per gallon by Memorial Day.

“The price of gasoline is a concern” of the Michigan tourism industry, said Yencich, but his opinion is that “very few families are going to look at the price of gasoline and … say, ‘Hey, we’re not going to take a vacation this year.’

“There are many who might have been planning to drive to the Grand Canyon, to drive to the East Coast, and those folks are going to choose to vacation closer to home, and a great deal of Pure Michigan’s market resides both in the state of Michigan and in those states immediately adjoining the Great Lakes area.”

“Where it suppresses tourism outcomes,” said Yencich, “is the frequency of weekend travel. So people with cottages, people who like to go on day trips, to drive up north for the weekend and stay in a hotel — the number of those kinds of trips is generally suppressed by high gas prices.”

However, he noted that “in years past, when we’ve seen spikes in gas during the summer travel season, we’ve seen individual properties and convention and visitors bureaus offering gas cards and other incentives to help offset the cost of that travel. So the market generally finds a way to positively react to those kinds of conditions.”

Yencich said the last figure he had heard for the total economic value of the tourism industry in Michigan was $17 billion.

The Michigan Lodging & Tourism Association took over management of the annual state tourism conference in 2006, at which time fewer than 300 people attended. In 2011, attendance was more than 600, and Yencich said the MLTA thinks there will be 700 to 750 attendees this year.

To register for the 2012 Pure Michigan Governor’s Conference on Tourism, visit the MLTA website: www.milodging.org.

The MLTA, formerly known as the Michigan Hotel, Motel & Resort Association, is a 100-year-old organization based in Lansing. The trade association represents more than 500 hotels, motels, resorts and bed and breakfasts, with a total of more than 40,000 guest rooms.

No comments:

Blog Archive