Last month tourism experts from Michigan State University delivered a less than rosy forecast for Michigan’s tourism industry at the Driving Tourism 2008 conference. Also see the full Michigan Tourism 2008 presentation (PDF). The report projected that poor economic indicators on the state and national level and travel prices up over 7% from 2007 would likely lead to decreases in tourism of 5% in the UP, 4% in Northern Lower Peninsula, 2% in Southeast Michigan and a 3% growth in Southeast Michigan (likely due to the red-hot local economy).
Co-author Prof. Robert Richardson offered a couple of bright spots including a weak dollar potentially leading to more Canadian and international travelers, an expanded Pure Michigan travel advertising budget, and high travel prices possibly leading more Michiganians to travel within Michigan.
The message was clear that the travel industry is going to need some serious help in 2008, and right here at home is a great place to start. A few years ago, it was reported that Michigan had a nearly $3 billion dollar travel trade deficit (view the slides), meaning that Michigan residents spend nearly three billion dollars more when traveling out-of-state than non-residents visitors spend in Michigan. The authors of that report, Don Holecek & Joe Fridgen suggested:
We need to begin by accepting the fact we have a problem, which is not going away when the economy turns around or if we only tinker with what we have been doing in the past to attract more tourist dollars. Big problems require big solutions. We won’t close the deficient by simply matching the moves of our competition; rather we must strive to better them on many fronts. We will have to work harder, invest more, and invest smarter to offset our disadvantages and identify and exploit our advantages.
While Pure Michigan does a great job of reminding folks who love Michigan to come home for vacation, Michigan also needs a push (with funding) in our local media to help remind people who are already home of how much there is to do here in Michigan. We need to remember our state & national parks, our rich museums and vibrant downtowns when it comes time to plan a week or weekend trip.
Let’s all try to Make it a Michigan Vacation this year!