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Business Review Western MI
Business Review Western MI
Michigan gets serious about tourism
(2008-02-13)
(wgvu) - Michigan gets serious about tourism


Feb. 14, 2008

By Mark Sanchez
marks@mbusinessreview.com

Gov. Jennifer Granholm's proposal to pump $60 million over two years
into tourism and business promotion is a sign the state is finally
taking the industry seriously, travel promoters say.

Part of a $1.8 billion economic-stimulus package included in the
governor's 2009 budget proposal, the money would temporarily give the
tourism industry what it has long wanted a substantial increase from
the state in promotional funding.

While the money Granholm proposed is a long way from final, it provides
the industry with a rallying point to push its cause even harder at the
grassroots level.

It is inspiring and it is motivating and we'll continue to work
toward our goal, said Marci Cisneros, executive director of the Grand
Haven Area Visitors Bureau and outgoing president of the Michigan
Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus.

Our hope is we'll get as close to that money as possible, she
said.

Language in Granholm's fiscal year 2009 budget proposal, unveiled
last week, provides for a one-time increase in funding for tourism and
business promotion from $30 million to $90 million over two years.

The proposed funding comes as tourism promoters argue that the industry
could provide the state's beleaguered economy a much-needed boost by
drawing more visitors from around the nation to Michigan to spend their
vacation money.

There's never been a more important time for us to come together
and reach an agreement that produces meaningful change for our state's
economy and additional money for tourism promotion is just that,
said Steve Yencich, CEO of the Michigan Hotel, Motel and Resort
Association and head of a coalition pushing for greater promotional
funding.

The product is there. It's the promotion that needs work, and you
can't get someone to buy something they don't know is there,
Yencich said.

Michigan lags well behind other Great Lakes states in tourism
promotion, he said.

The additional funding, of course, is subject to the legislative
appropriations process that will play out in the coming months, and
tourism would not get all the money. Part of it would go to pump up the
Michigan Economic De velopment Corp.'s promotional budget that seeks
to lure new business investments.

But the proposal is seen as a proverbial step in the right direction
and signifies a changing attitude toward how the industry is viewed in
Lansing, tourism promoters say.

People are beginning to realize that it is successful and an
important part of our economic puzzle, said Dave Lorenz, vice
president of Travel Michigan, the state agency responsible for tourism
promotion.

Granholm's proposal comes as the industry continues pushing for an
annual, permanent $30 million allocation in the state budget to take the
MEDC's award-winning Pure Michigan campaign national. The campaign now
primarily targets markets in border states.

Legislation introduced last summer by Sen. Jason Allen, Republican
from Traverse City, would earmark a portion of revenue from the
state's six percent sales tax to pay for tourism promotion. The
measure, if approved, would generate roughly $30 million annually.

In her State of the State address last month, Granholm voiced support
for Allen's bill and higher spending on tourism promotion.

We agree that we must significantly increase our advertising of this
beautiful state to attract tourists and businesses, Granholm said.
We are eager to pass what will be the largest investment in
marketing Michigan in our history, expanding to new markets, trumpeting
our virtues across the nation and around the world.

Advocates of higher spending on tourism promotion cite data showing a
large return on investment that would incur in the same year.

A 2006 study, conducted by Toronto-based Longwoods International and
commissioned by the Motel, Hotel and Resort Association, concluded that
spending $30 million annually on a broader promotional campaign could
generate $1.24 billion a year in additional economic impact and more
than pay for itself through $87.3 million in incremental state tax
revenue.

The industry generates an estimated annual economic impact of $18.8
billion, employs more than 200,000 people and produces $1.1 billion in
state tax revenue.

Travel Michigan for several years has received $5.7 million annually
for promotion, primarily targeting Chicago, In dianapolis and Cleveland.


The amount was bolstered the last two years by a $15 million, one-time
allocation from the state's 21st Century Jobs Fund.
Travel Michigan is convinced that taking the Pure Michigan campaign
national and sustaining the message would pay dividends, Lorenz said.

The increased funding the last two years enabled Travel Michigan to
make great strides in the markets it presently targets.

Potential markets for expanding the Pure Michigan summer campaign
include Dallas and St. Louis, Lorenz said.

While the passage of Allen's bill is the ultimate goal for the
industry, Cisneros sees the Granholm proposal as a potential opportunity
to gather data on the return on investment of high promotional spending
to use later.

We would see it as an opportunity to prove the ROI and finally have
an opportunity to showcase that this industry brings long-standing value
and is worth investing in competitively with other states, Cisneros
said.
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