Campground Fee Hike Causes Dispute Between Campground Owners and Visitors Bureau in Mackinaw City

A decision to increase fees for campsites in Mackinaw City has campground owners saying they feel unfairly targeted by the local visitors bureau.

The Mackinaw Area Visitors Bureau increased fees for campsites back in November.

They say its move to level the playing field between hotels and campsites.

“Myself and the other campground owners felt like the rug was pulled out from underneath of us,” Vince Rogala, said.

It was a bit of sticker shock for Vince Rogala, general manager and co-owner of Mackinaw Mill Creek Camping.

“We got a notice late in November of last year, that our membership was going up and if we wanted to participate in the 2018 marketing program that we needed to pay this new fee,” Rogala, explained.

A new fee, now $14 per campsite, compared to the old $300 flat-fee plus $0.75 per campsite.

In Vince’s case, it added up to a five-digit increase.

“Last year was $500, this year it’s over $10,000 for me to be a member of the Mackinaw Area Visitor’s Bureau. It doesn’t justify the cost of advertising,” Rogala, added.

Joe Lieghio a prominent hotel-owner and President of the Mackinaw Area Visitors Bureau says fees for campsites haven’t been increased in decades and the new fee doesn’t come close to what hotels are charged.

“Transient lodging facilities are paying about on average $300 per room to be members of the visitors bureau and reap its benefits, the campgrounds were asked to pay $14,” Leighio, said.

He says the board is now giving owners like Vince three options.

Pay the new fee, pay a 2 percent fee on rental income, or opt-out of the assessment district and not be promoted or listed as a lodging facility.

“We’ll be happy to promote the area and promote other businesses and other attractions so that more people come up. We’re not looking to have free riders if it doesn’t contribute to our goal of getting people into those hotel room,” Leighio, added.