Tourism wouldn’t succeed without you

We have entered the shoulder season of tourism called fall. We all call it Fall, but for businesses that depend on revenue from tourist spending, fall is the final stretch to help meet financial goals prior to the low-season of winter.

How important is tourism to our economy?

An analysis from SMARInsights touches on both the economic impact and the effectiveness of marketing in motivating out-of-state trips to Michigan for leisure travel. SMARInsights reported that, in 2017, more than 5.6 million person-trips were made to Michigan from outside of the state as a result of exposure to Pure Michigan marketing. Those visitors spent $2.1 billion in communities like Alpena, across the state.

The result of those trips and visitor spending was a return on investment (ROI) of $8.99 for every $1 spent for the Pure Michigan campaign in 2017. That year, out-of-state visitor spending motivated by the campaign supported $147 million in state tax revenue. Tourism has far-reaching effects, including direct impacts such as money paid for lodging or food and indirect and induced impacts such as increased insurance or real estate sales as a result of more activity within a community.

What Pure Michigan does for the state, the Alpena Area Convention & Visitors Bureau does for the Alpena area. The CVB works to market the community to a variety of travel audiences to pull visitor spending to the area. We work with the Pure Michigan management team to collaborate for social media campaigns, radio interviews, and written editorial content throughout the year; as well as many other partners and programs.

Tourism is often difficult to grasp for those not in the middle of it. It’s considered a “dispersed industry.”

There isn’t a factory you can drive past to watch them crank out tourists. Visitors come with families to relax, for weddings or reunions, are visiting as a function of business travel, and some are here for specific activities like fishing, diving, or hockey. They come throughout the year, mainly in the warm summer months.

Fall is the second-busiest season. Winter sees the fewest visitors, with increases coming again in spring. Unless someone is just passing through, all visitors need a place to sleep, eat, and even those here on business look for entertainment activities like golf, theater, and tours. Tourism dollars are new dollars brought into a community and tourism spending helps improve the quality of life for local residents.

When I started this job five-and-a-half years ago, my first goal was to maximize the summer season and grow it to a point where it begins to generate self-sustaining gains. We are at about 80 percent capacity throughout the summer months, so we aren’t there, yet, but we’re close.

The next goal was to spread visitation increases into the shoulder seasons of spring and fall. Fall has been growing nicely. Spring is a challenge because the weather in spring can be finicky. People don’t travel during blizzards and we had a doozey of a blizzard this April, which impacted visitation. With that said, all four seasons continue to experience year-over-year growth.

Tourism has been steadily increasing due to a number of factors.

The Alpena Area CVB has a robust, multi-faceted marketing program that packages the authentic Alpena area experience and promotes this message to key demographic and geotargets throughout Michigan and the Great Lakes region, as well as key travel audiences on a nationwide level.

Once visitors decide to come to the area, the community takes over and it is up to individual businesses or organizations to stand out and get noticed by this audience. We know we wouldn’t be seeing increases in overall tourism if the visitors weren’t having a good time here, which is all thanks to our community. Each business that caters to tourists, or local group that plans a festival or other activity, seals the deal. Good service, fun experiences that meet visitor’s expectations, and friendly locals are all major contributors to the overall success of the tourism industry in the Alpena area.

Great places to live are great places to visit. While tourism is of critical importance to our economy, it isn’t the only economic driver. We hold fast to our principles of working toward sustainable growth. We want to guide and balance growth that lifts everyone up without overwhelming or detracting from our quality of life.

Thank you to everyone who owns or works at a locally-owned business. Thank you to the organizations that care for our unique gems: the parks, museums, lighthouses, trails, water, forests, our history and heritage. Thank you to the volunteers who work to make our community a better place to live and visit. Tourism is an important part of our economy and this industry wouldn’t be successful without you!

Mary Beth Stutzman’s Inspiring A-Town runs bi-weekly on Tuesdays. Follow Mary Beth on Twitter @mbstutz.