michigan tourism

When you think "Michigan," you think tourism, right? Or, for some, maybe it's Tim Allen telling you about the state's open roads, fall colors, glistening lakes. Tourism means big business for the mitten. We look at how the changing climate might impact what more than 4.4 million out-of-state visitors will be able to do and enjoy when they come to the Great Lakes State. 

 Then, we spoke with Michigan author Laura Kasischke about her latest novel, Mind of Winter. And Daniel Howes joined us for our weekly check-in, to discuss Mary Barra and the ghost of GM's past. Also, women are underrepresented in the  STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields, but there is one University of Michigan student group trying to change that. And, we are one week into spring but still getting snow. Meterologist Jim Maczko spoke with us about when we can expect warmer weather.  First on the show, we are closing in on the deadline to purchase health insurance or face a penalty under the Affordable Care Act. 

Erin Knott is the Michigan Director of Enroll America, a non-profit, non-partisan group trying to get people enrolled in health insurance.

Erin joined us today to discuss the upcoming deadline. 

Pure Michigan / YouTube

When you think "Michigan," you have to think tourism. It's big business for the Mitten.

The now-famous "Pure Michigan" commercials are airing on network TV for the first time.

Pure Michigan advertising attracted more than four million out-of-state visitors last year. But how will our warming climate impact what those visitors might be able to do and enjoy when they come to Michigan?

Sarah Nicholls is an associate professor of tourism at Michigan State University, and Jim MacInnes is President and CEO of Crystal Mountain in Thompsonville. They joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

michigan.org

The Pure Michigan advertising campaign helped fill state tax coffers again last year.

Michigan has invested heavily in an effort to boost tourism in recent years. And the commercials, which are voiced by actor Tim Allen, and often feature scenic shots of lake vistas or Detroit nightlife, are getting through to people.

Michelle Grinnell is the public relations manager for Pure Michigan. She says the Pure Michigan brand connects with people.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

2014 may be a ‘robust’ year for Michigan’s tourism industry.

Stock markets and consumer confidence are high, housing markets are improving and unemployment is down. Michigan State University researchers say these are all factors that play a role in determining if people will take a vacation.

The MSU researchers presented their annual tourism forecast at an industry conference in Traverse City this morning.

They’re predicting a 4.5% increase in hotel receipts this year compared with 2013, which was a strong year for Michigan tourism.

Andrew McFarlane / Creative Commons

The waterfront in Traverse City used to be an industrial area. Now it's open space with parks, beaches and bike trails.

With that comes festivals, and some city residents say there are too many. They complain of "festival fatigue." City leaders voted last night to lower the number of festivals allowed in the open space area from six to four.

More from the Traverse City Record-Eagle:

Commissioners said the new limitation would address resident concerns about the number of large events at the Open Space in a reasonable manner. Commissioners split on the question, reflecting the temperament of city residents who offered varying opinions on the need for more festivals.

“We are limiting one event at one park,” Commissioner Jeanine Easterday said before running through a long list of festivals and events that remain. “We are not eliminating events for Traverse City.”

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Michigan’s tourism hot spots are in the midst of their first big summer weekend.

Michigan State University’s annual tourism forecast predicts a three percent increase in the number of tourists this year. The forecast also predicts a five percent increase in tourism spending in 2013.

Brad Van Dommelen is the president of the Traverse City Convention and Visitors Bureau. He says Traverse City-area hotels have seen an uptick in pre-bookings.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The summer holiday season is getting off to a cool start this weekend.

There’s a chance of frost tonight in parts of Michigan.   And daytime temperatures will struggle to make it into the low 70’s the rest of the weekend. 

It may feel a little chilly for the first weekend of summer, but weather forecasters say more seasonable temperatures are coming.

But will this be a warmer or cooler summer?

Jeff Andresen is a state climatologist. He says Michigan’s average summer high temperatures range in the upper 70 to lower 80’s.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Gasoline prices have risen sharply during the last few days.

"GasBuddy.com" pegs Michigan’s average price per gallon at $3.85. That's up ten cents from a week ago, and it's 20 cents higher than the national average. Many gas stations are already charging $3.99 a gallon, with a few charging more than four dollars. 

Gregg Laskoski is a senior petroleum analyst with GasBuddy. He says prices are not rising because of the upcoming Memorial Day holiday.

Laskoski blames refinery problems in Indiana and Illinois for prices pushing four dollars a gallon. 

Lake Michigan Sunset
User acrylicartist / MorgueFile.com

Researchers predict tourists will pump more money into the Michigan economy this year.

Tourism spending in Michigan went up by about 6 percent in 2012, and Michigan State researchers say the state should see a similar increase this year.

They predict a 5.5 percent increase in spending for 2013.

Michigan State University experts, Sarah Nicholls and Dan McCole, released their annual tourism forecast today at the Pure Michigan Governor’s Conference on Tourism in Detroit.

More from an MSU press release:

Nicholls said The Henry Ford in Dearborn had a record year with visits up 25 percent, to 1.9 million. Visits to Michigan’s popular national parks – including Sleeping Bear Dunes, up 14 percent; Pictured Rocks, up 6 percent; and Isle Royale, up 5 percent – far outpaced the 1 percent average increase at all national parks across the country.

In the state’s hotel sector, 2012 saw the highest occupancy rates since 2000, added Nicholls...

“We can attribute these positive outcomes in 2012 to a combination of factors including the warm, dry summer and fall, a continued rebound in consumer confidence, relatively steady gas prices and the continuing influence of the state’s Pure Michigan advertising campaign,” Nicholls said.

Despite the positive trends, the researchers say something unexpected could change things. They're waiting to see how the economy will fare when the effects of the sequester budget cuts set in.

The researchers say Michigan fits well with many tourism trends occurring around the country.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A new You Tube video features a tour of 15 breweries with loads of people giving a toast to the “BeerCity USA” title bestowed upon Grand Rapids earlier this year. Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell joined in, although he and city council celebrated with their own press conference a few months ago.

Ashville, North Carolina and Portland, Oregon; those are the cities known for their microbreweries. But Grand Rapids?

“We’ve in the industry put in a lot of time and a lot of effort. We deserve it for sure, yeah,” Steve Smith assured me. You’ve got to love Smith’s title; chief beer geek at HopCat. The bar was named the third “Beer Bar on Planet Earth” by Beer Advocate magazine this year.  

Andrea Smith

Organizers of Holland’s Tulip Time festival are having a little fun with the fact the usual draw - million of blooming tulips - will be missing this year.

In Holland, you hear some worries about it almost every year. But this year it was especially bad.

“The weather’s been so warm. When tulips were blooming on St. Patrick’s Day we all looked at each other and said 'we’ll have nothing by the festival.”

Luckily there are some tulip blooms left; about 30-percent Auwerda estimates.

 “The locals have always called it a stemfest when there’s not a lot of tulips. And so we thought, let’s just do a little tongue in check and have a little fun with it.”

They made official “Stemfest 2012” t-shirts and buttons. Demand was so high for the original 300 stemfest t-shirts, they had to stop taking online orders shortly after they hit the shelves Thursday. 

Auwerda says they’ve reordered the shirts. They're expected to restock Tuesday, but she can't promise they'll have enough to sell online. (I read other businesses are selling unofficial versions.) 

(I'm partial to the Grand Rapids video... but there's lots more here.)

A new report shows the Pure Michigan campaign drove a record one billion dollars into the state’s economy last spring and summer. That’s almost twice as much as the spring and summer of 2010 (it was $605 million then).

“This is the biggest result ever for the campaign,” said George Zimmermann, director of the state’s tourism group, Travel Michigan. “The results just every year are a little better, little better; now this year is a pretty big jump,” George Zimmermann said.

Michigan Radio

2012 is shaping up to be a busy year for the people who produce the Pure Michigan ads.

Harbor Springs, Gaylord, Charlevoix and Jackson are the latest cities to pony up $20,000 each to be part of the popular tourism campaign. The Michigan Economic Development Corporation matches the money, bringing the total to $40,000, which gets each city its own radio ad and a spot on the Pure Michigan website. 

Rory Finneren / Creative Commons

The head of Michigan’s travel association says the state will continue to expand the Pure Michigan marketing campaign in 2012.

George Zimmermann is with the state’s tourism group, Travel Michigan. He told a group of business leaders in Grand Rapids that Michigan has the 7th largest travel budget compared to other states in the country.

“2010 was the first time ever that non-residents spent more in Michigan on leisure travel than residents,” Zimmermann said, “My prediction is that will never cross back the other way.”

user will_cyclist / Flickr

Promoting winter sports may be a way to attract more tourists to Michigan, and more tourists mean more money. 

“Snow in Michigan is really white gold,” said Mary Dettloff with the Department of Natural Resources.

Snowmobiling is already a huge industry for the state. It attracts people from around the country, and Dettloff says it has an economic impact of more than $1 billion.

Michigan currently has 99 state parks and recreation areas where people can experience the great outdoors and do things like cross-country ski, snow-shoe, and hike. 

State parks also host special workshops and classes. One of the most popular programs is a “make-your-own-snowshoe” workshop. Some state parks also have dog-sled demonstrations and lantern-lit, nighttime skiing and hiking. (For the truly brave there’s a public luge in Muskegon State Park.)

Dettloff said the state has the potential to become a destination for winter sports but she said the state needs to do a better job promoting itself to tourists.

Patrick Stephan / Michigan Radio

“Any resort operator will tell you this week between Christmas and New Years is a very very important week,” said Steve Kershner, president of the Michigan Snowsports Industries Association.

Philip Jagenstedt / Flickr

Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton has been reporting recently on a series of stories about Michigan's evolving relationship with China.

From cars to crops to hats, these sometimes unusual Chinese connections could have a big impact on the state's economic future.

Here is a brief roundup, in case you missed any of the stories.

October 11: Selling American cars, China-style

Chinese dealerships with their aggressive sales staffs, shiny floors, and canned music may evoke their American counterparts, but Tracy Samilton says U.S. automakers are trying to cash in on China's booming demand for cars by tailoring their approach to suit local tastes and attitudes.

From working to maintain a solid brand reputation (the opinions of family and colleagues is probably the most important factor for Chinese car buyers), to explaining features to inexperienced drivers, Detroit car companies are betting on China as a key to their futures.

October 11: Tiny cars to tackle big problems

Megacities like Beijing and Shanghai already struggle with dense smog and days-long traffic jams clogging roads and highways, but  China's voracious appetite for cars and steadily increasing urban population only promise to make things worse.

Tracy Samilton reports that, among other solutions, General Motors' China division is experimenting with small electric vehicles that seat two, roll on two wheels, and can drive themselves, not to mention take up one fifth the parking space needed for a regular car.

October 14: Ford and the case of the Chinese official's hat

While Ford is currently working hard to be a top competitor the Chinese auto market, they lag behind other international automakers including General Motors.

Tracy Samilton tells us that part of the reason for this gap can be traced back to hats.

More specifically, in the early 1990s, Ford lost out on a contract to supply Chinese officials with a fleet of limousines because the unusual body shape of the Taurus knocked the hats right of the dignitaries' heads.

October 23: Exchanging students and changing perspectives

Engineering students in Shanghai and Ann Arbor are learning more than what is printed in their textbooks thanks to a University of Michigan Joint Institute program that sends Michigan students to study in China and brings Chinese students here to do the same.

Students from both sides of the program told Tracy Samilton about local hospitality, the allure of college football, and that a big part of the experience is about learning from their host culture and not just in the classroom.

November 7: From Michigan's fields to Chinese dinner tables

Detroit cars are certainly a major component in Michigan's economic connection with China, but as Tracy Samilton reports, there is also an increasing Chinese demand for Michigan crops and other food products.

Chinese livestock producers use Michigan grown soybeans and wheat as feed, but consumers are also developing a taste for Michigan foods from blueberries to cereal to baby food, bolstered in part by U.S. safety and quality standards.

November 8: Pure Michigan in China?

Both the Michigan tourism industry and the state capitol are hoping to make Michigan a destination for international tourists, especially for those  from China.

While some, including Governor Snyder have big plans to attract Chinese visitors by showcasing Michigan's natural beauty and automotive history, others say that most Chinese people probably haven't even heard of Michigan, and as Tracy Samilton reports, bad translations are not helping.

And an audio documentary...

As a way to bring these stories together, a team of Michigan Radio producers created an audio documentary on the Michigan-China connection that features content from all of these stories along with interviews with Kenneth Lieberthal, the Director of the John L. Thornton China Center, Wei Shen, Managing Director of Bridge Connect, and Rebecca Linland, the Director of Automotive Research at HIS Automotive.

- John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

(courtesy of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources)

Michigan’s tourism and fishing industries will discuss how to form a united front against Asian carp during a conference Tuesday in Lansing.  John Goss, the Obama Administration’s "carp czar," will be the keynote speaker at the  conference.  

Asian carp present a threat to the Great Lakes’ multi-billion dollar sport fishing and tourism industries, according to Steve Yencich, president of the Tourism Industries Coalition of Michigan.  The coalition is organizing the carp summit.