Published: May 6, 2010

Michigan tourism industry expected to improve in 2010

Contact(s): Dan McCole Commercial Recreation and Tourism cell: (517) 802-7011 mccoleda@msu.edu

MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. — Despite what has been a tough economic year, there is some good news for Michigan’s tourism industry, according to a forecast presented at the Pure Michigan Governor’s Conference – Driving Tourism 2010 on Mackinac Island.

Michigan’s tourism spending is expected to improve by 3 percent to 4 percent this year, while tourism volume and spending are expected to increase by 2 percent to 3 percent, according to a forecast presented by Michigan State University tourism analyst Dan McCole.

McCole based his projections on several factors including a review of last year’s economic, transportation and weather conditions along with a summary of 2009 Michigan tourism activity and discussions with state industry experts.

“As predicted, 2009 was a down year for the state’s tourism industry. However, considering that Michigan lost over 230,000 jobs last year, it’s actually a bit surprising that things weren’t worse,” he said. “Business travel certainly saw very large decreases in 2009, but leisure travel saw only modest drops in volume.” 

Although several economic indicators suggest the U.S. economy is improving, unemployment is still very high. Michigan has lost almost 900,000 jobs since 2000, and despite an improving U.S. auto industry, the unemployment rate statewide still leads the nation at more than 14 percent, said McCole, an MSU assistant professor of commercial recreation and tourism. 

Additionally, the state’s population has decreased for four consecutive years, shrinking the size of the in-state tourism market which accounts for about 70 percent of Michigan’s travel volume.

“One of the big lessons from last year is that even when things get bad, people still want to share quality experiences with family and friends,” McCole said. 

This sentiment, combined with attractive travel deals and low gas prices, kept people traveling around the state last year, but they certainly spent less than usual, he said.

“Although the unemployment rate is still about where it was last summer, people are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel,” McCole added. “Those who didn’t lose their jobs feel more confident that they won’t, and many have seen their retirement savings rebound with the resurgence of the stock market.”

McCole said the Pure Michigan campaign has done a good job communicating what Michigan has to offer, and tourism industry leaders have been providing a broad range of tourism options that offer exceptional value. 

“Travelers are more confident about their financial future than they were a year ago,” McCole said.  “Sharing quality experiences with friends and family is still a priority for them, and they know they can have a top notch, affordable vacation in Michigan. 

“Although we don’t expect to see a return to 2005-2006 levels of volume and spending, we do expect to see an increase over last year,” he added.

McCole and his colleague Sarah Nicholls presented their conclusions at the Pure Michigan Governor’s Conference – Driving Tourism 2010 on May 6.

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