Michigan travel industry plans to build on the success of “Pure Michigan”

Building on the successful “Pure Michigan” campaign, the travel industry in Michigan is developing its next five-year plan using data that shows encouraging signs of an economic comeback.

At the annual Governor’s Conference on Tourism held in Grand Rapids, Mich. on March 25-27, the announcement that the Pure Michigan campaign attracted 3.2 million out of state visitors and is attributed with $1 billion in new revenue to the state, came as welcome news to the audience of over 900 industry folks. Now a well-recognized brand, the Pure Michigan campaign highlights the beauty, natural resources and recreational attractions of our state to national markets.

Presented by the Michigan Lodging and Tourism Association, Travel Michigan, Michigan State University (MSU), and the Michigan Travel Commission, the conference featured keynotes and a number of workshops on topics that included utilizing social media in marketing, delivering on the promise of Pure Michigan, funding tourism development, merging of lodging and real estate development and critical legislative issues.

A consistent theme throughout the conference was the need to expand Michigan’s tourism outreach to international markets. During the much-anticipated 2011 Year in Review and 2012 Tourism Forecast presented annually on the last day of the conference, faculty (Dr. Sarah Nicholls and Dr. Dan McCole) of MSU’s Department of Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies (CARRS) presented information about the anticipated rise in international travel expenditures for the BRIC nations (China +38 percent, Brazil +32 percent, India +32 percent and Russia +21percent). This poses an opportunity for Michigan travel destination markets.

New segments of the conference audience were students from university and college hospitality programs and economic development professionals throughout the state. As noted by conference organizers, it was as important to tie future service and industry development talent to the content of the conference as it was to tie the state’s local and regional economic development strategists to the tourism efforts.

The last session of the conference was a strategic planning and goal setting session. More than 100 key industry stakeholders participated in charting five-year goals for the industry in the areas of collaboration; cooperation and partnerships; natural resources and environment; funding and financing; public policy and government support; product development; marketing; promotion; communications, research and technical assistance; and service excellence.

Building around a tentative vision of Michigan as one of the top favorite travel destinations in America, the planning process will be expanded to a regional focus over the spring and summer months. This will give those involved in tourism and economic development, and other interested groups, an opportunity to provide input into the objectives and strategies of the plan. Online surveys will also be used as a means to gather input. The planning session was facilitated by MSU Extension facilitators and the strategic planning will be coordinated by Dr. Nicholls of MSU.

Tourism as an economic development strategy is – step-by-step – having a positive impact on Michigan’s economy. The key is to plan strategically for the future, building upon the forward momentum already established.

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