Is it time to resurrect the Tourist Hospitality School?

With the success of the Pure Michigan campaign and more visitors expected to visit Michigan communities in the future, it may be time to update the concept of a locally-based tourism and hospitality program.

While clearing hard-copy file folders from my Michigan State University Extension county office, I came across two pre-1980 MSU Extension bulletins (E-1322 and R-102) describing how to strengthen the local tourism economy. Intrigued, I opened and began to read these short publications.

The basic premise was that tourism is an important economic driver for most every Michigan community - some things never change!

In fact, tourism is one of Michigan’s three major industries. Travel Michigan reported that in 2012 about $1.1 billion dollars were spent by 3.8 million statewide visitors. And, for every dollar the state spent on the Pure Michigan campaign, $5.76 was generated in state and local taxes. In 2013, Michigan State University specialists Dr. Sarah Nichols and Dr. Dan McCole (Crain’s Detroit Business), projected that tourism spending would rise 5.5 percent, after a 6 percent increase last year.

Could a Tourism Hospitality School be a new tool to help us build more tourism-friendly Michigan communities and cash-in on the additional money generated through travel dollars? As author Thomas Beattie states in the 1980 bulletin, Conduct a Tourist Hospitality School, “…a pleasant vacation for tourists can deliver significant financial benefits to communities willing to provide assistance.”

Beattie’s report lists four subjects around which a community-based Tourist Hospitality School should be built, content of which would be determined by a local community committee:

  1. The value (and definitions) of tourism to Michigan and a community
  2. Description of local and regional tourism attractions
  3. The art of tourism and hospitality
  4. Inspirational speaker designed to motivate

The first subject, the value and definitions of Michigan tourism, has recently been developed by the Michigan State University Extension Tourism team. The team, comprised of field and campus specialists, will pilot their program at the October 3rd and 4th Creating Entrepreneurial Communities Conference in Marshall, Mich.

Perhaps this new MSUE tourism program will be the beginning of an updated Tourist Hospitality School, whereby local communities can strengthen their ability to capture the projected increase of tourism dollars.

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