Travel trends put Michiganders in the driver’s seat as tourism ramps up

Ironwood, Michigan: Welcome to Pure Michigan sign on the MI / Wisconsin border in the upper peninsula.
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By SHANDRA MARTINEZ

There are early signs that tourism is ramping back up as more Americans get vaccinations. A full bounce-back for the industry isn’t likely to happen until 2022, but this summer is expected to move the needle significantly.

The first week in May, hotels in Michigan reported 58% occupancy — more than double the rate of a year ago. It’s a sign people are ready to get out of their homes, believes David Lorenz, vice president of Travel Michigan, speaking at a National Travel and Tourism Week event in early May to tout the state’s upcoming tourism season. This year’s theme is The Power of Travel.

“Despite the challenges of the past year, Pure Michigan is ready and eager to welcome back visitors and help drive Michigan’s recovery efforts,” Lorenz said in a statement. “With warm weather upon us, we are reminding travelers of the beauty and diversity of Michigan’s destinations and that their favorite activities can still be enjoyed in Pure Michigan while staying safe.”

HERE ARE SOME TRENDS DRIVING MICHIGAN TRAVEL

Getting outdoors. With the current restrictions in place, people are spending more time outdoors. Those who have never been into outdoor recreation are trying new things, such as hiking and kayaking. The pandemic is pushing people outdoors, and that has continued to hold strong. Look for demand in products that help people in their quest to get outdoors.

Experience packages. Retail spending, whether eating out or shopping, is one of the main activities people do when they travel. The Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau is giving people ideas by creating experience packages that deliver cost savings and the convenience of having an itinerary. The Detroit Experience packages range from overnight stays to day trips that include tours of the Motor City based on interests such as shopping, history or food.

Safe travel. Five of Michigan’s welcome centers are offering free rapid COVID-19 tests. The voluntary tests — which provide results in 15 minutes — are sponsored by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. The Travel Points Testing Program includes the welcome centers on U.S. 127 in Clare, Interstate 94 in New Buffalo, U.S. 23 in Dundee and Interstate 75 in Monroe County.

Road trips. Travel Michigan has redirected its promotional campaign to highlight in-state and Great Lakes regional travel. The focus is on driving vacations that give the traveler a sense of safety. At michigan.org, there’s a dedicated page for road trips with suggested itineraries on the state’s website. The summer campaign follows on the heels of a successful winter ad campaign, as the next step of a multi-phase effort to continue reintroducing Michigan as a premier four-season travel destination and location to work, live and play. In addition, the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and Pure Michigan late last year launched a “Support Local” campaign, which urged Michiganders to shop, eat and travel safely in Pure Michigan.

Collaboration to boost travel. Convention and Visitor Bureaus are coming together across the state to encourage statewide travel. They are among more than 30 Michigan Association of Convention & Visitor Bureaus (MACVB) member destinations that took part in The Great Michigan Scavenger Hunt & Giveaway, which launched in early May as part of National Travel and Tourism Week. The first of a two-part promotion included social media gift card giveaways tied to sharing travelers’ favorite overnight vacation pictures online using #MIPowerofTravel to win one of 10 Michigan road trip packages. The second featured gift cards to various Michigan restaurants and breweries hidden throughout participating towns for people to find. The event is part of a longer-term effort that began in 2020 as CVBs worked together to cross-promote each other with “virtual trips” to highlight tourism opportunities across the state.

This year, the group is hoping that visitors will find a gift card in Frankenmuth for a hotel or restaurant in Traverse City that would inspire another road trip, explained Christie Bierlein, marketing director for the Frankenmuth Convention and Visitors Bureau, as well as the marketing chair for the MACVB.

The idea of the promotion is to “encourage people to travel to new places in Michigan that they maybe haven’t been to before,” Bierlein said.