Tourism industry ascends upon Traverse City for annual conference

International and culinary tourism are the main focuses for this year’s Governor’s Tourism Conference in Northwestern Lower Michigan.

Every year the Pure Michigan Governor’s Conference on Tourism is held in a different location around the Great Lakes State. Last year, 2013, it was held in Detroit at the Renaissance Center along the Detroit River overlooking Canada. This year, 2014, Grand Traverse Bay Resort and Spa held the event, which attracted over a 1000 participants-the largest audience yet!

Academics, politicians, chamber members, journalists, hoteliers, travel and tourism experts, and a number of other professionals convened for nearly three days to receive exposure to Michigan’s successes, trends and future plans surrounding tourism. The theme of this year’s conference was culinary tourism, a niche market that incorporates specialty cuisines from local areas or regions with travel and tourism. An example of culinary tourism would be “foodie tours”. A ‘foodie’ is an individual that spends leisure time sampling different foods from a variety of cultures, communities and areas, and makes it a regular hobby. Combine foodies with travel to different locations and you essentially will have a well-structured tourism activity that can support local businesses, agriculture, culture, as well as education.

The Pure Michigan event also focused on international tourism, an effort many of us in the industry are seeing Michigan embrace firsthand. Breakout sessions during the conference focused on marketing Michigan as a world-class destination to nations such as, Germany, The United Kingdom, China and Canada. During the lodging track, panels of experts specifically focused on educating the audience around cultural etiquette when hosting both Chinese and Japanese tourists to Michigan. A number of audience members posed challenging questions to the panel so they can better prepare for servicing foreign guests that may have different preferences for food or room numbers. A number of other sessions dealt directly with economic development in downtown districts and tourism programs designed to enhance visitor experience.

Participants also receive nearly a two-hour presentation by MSU faculty members, Dr. Nicholls and Dr. McCole regarding Michigan’s tourism, national and international trends, as well as projected forecast for the coming year. Both faculty members present this data annually, which is compiled via research and data collected over the year. Both attendees and non-attendees are able to view (and download) this year’s presentation by visiting the Department of Community Sustainability at Michigan State University.

The Pure Michigan Governor’s Conference is already gearing up for next year’s event which is to be held in Grand Rapids, Mich. from March 22-24, 2015. Michigan State University Extension also has experts in tourism working throughout Michigan that can assist communities and counties in tourism development. 

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