Tourism Industry Adapts For Pure Michigan Funding Fallout

Tourism is a major piece of the Michigan economy and after a decade of growth the future seems a bit more unknown.

A lot of it revolves around the future of the Pure Michigan campaign that was stripped of funding last year.

The impact of the national campaign can send ripples across the state and impact tourism dollars.

“Pure Michigan is not just commercials,” says Dave Lorenz of Travel Michigan, “Pure Michigan is a state of mind.”

As much as she may try, Michigan can’t sell herself. This week the tourism industry met for their annual conference in Grand Rapids.

“This is just a nice gut check for the industry,” says Brandy Miller of the Ludington Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, “It’s about thinking how travel and tourism is evolving all the time.”

Evolving to a future that may not include much influence from the biggest ad campaign the state has seen, Pure Michigan.

“We were a state that relied on one industry for a very long time and that hurt us and we were in bad shape before Pure Michigan was born,” says Lorenz.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer cut Pure Michigan out of the budget last year and neither she or the legislature replaced it with a supplemental bill. She has proposed replacing half of it for 2021, with the private sector filling in the rest.

“It’s been a very strange situation to be in because we know the governor supports us and we know the legislature supports us,” says Lorenz.

That’s why a lot of people think the Pure Michigan campaign was caught up as a political pawn. Even if funding is fully reinstated, that time without funding, the impact of that, is still yet to be seen in the tourism industry.

“Because we’re just going to start seeing it coming into the spring and summer from the tourism realm impact,” says Joy VanDrie of the Cadillac Area Vistors Bureau.

The industry questions stretch further than marketing, tourism is always at the whims of the economy and Mother Nature

“We are seeing some dip in traffic in our vacation rentals along the lake shore because of the beach erosion,” says Kathryn Kenny of the Manistee County Vistors Bureau.

“We have to be very flexible and changing all the time,” says Miller, “When I think about what the future looks like, it’s providing a diverse array of opportunities for people.”

No matter the season, tourism drives the Northern Michigan economy and keeping this momentum is going to be key.

“It’s going to be an interesting summer,” says VanDrie.