Published: March 23, 2015

Lousy weather can't stop Michigan tourism growth

Contact(s): Andy Henion Media Communications office: (517) 355-3294 cell: (517) 281-6949, Sarah Nicholls CARRS and Geography, Dan McCole Commercial Recreation and Tourism cell: (517) 802-7011

Despite unusually cold, wet weather, Michigan’s tourism industry experienced steady growth in 2014. And thanks largely to an improving economy, that momentum should continue this year.

Speaking today at the Pure Michigan Governor’s Conference on Tourism in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Michigan State University researchers Sarah Nicholls and Dan McCole presented their annual report on the state of the industry.

Nicholls said 2014 was 6 percent cooler and 11 percent wetter than normal. Nevertheless, two major indicators of tourism activity increased modestly, as hotel occupancy was up more than 2 percent and car traffic increased about 1 percent.

“2014 saw another year of steady growth for tourism in Michigan despite the weather, which was especially uncooperative early in the year and again in the autumn,” said Nicholls, associate professor of tourism.

She added that consumer confidence was up 19 percent and gas prices were down nearly 5 percent in 2014.

Tourism volume – the amount of people traveling to and around the state – is expected to increase 1.5 percent this year. Tourism spending, as measured by hotel and motel tax receipts, will climb an estimated 2.5 percent compared to 2014.

“The stock markets, gross domestic product and consumer confidence are all high,” said McCole, assistant professor in MSU’s Department of Community Sustainability. “Unemployment is down and housing markets continue to improve. With each year of the recovery, people have more and more confidence in the economy and are therefore more comfortable spending money on leisure travel.”

Other factors influencing tourism:

  • Nationally, leisure travel is growing faster than business travel and people are spending a higher percentage of their income on leisure travel, which represents a larger portion of Michigan’s tourism industry.
  • The state’s $29 million “Pure Michigan” advertising campaign continues to be successful, attracting visitors from across the globe.
  • Michigan continues to grow its reputation as a state with great local foods, wines and craft beers. CNN, for example, called Traverse City one of “7 up-and-coming foodie destinations,” while Grand Rapids claimed the title as “Best Beer Town” in USA Today.

Tourism in Michigan supported 200,000 jobs and generated $18.7 billion in direct spending in 2013, the latest year figures were available.

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