Many people who have never visited this state just don’t “get” Michigan.
What they know of this remarkable peninsula comes from accounts of economic woes or wild winter weather.
But Michigan is so much more than auto manufacturing miseries or a cold January day.
Truth is, they don’t know what they’re missing.
For the past two years, the “Pure Michigan” advertising and promotion campaign has sought to correct that situation.
The campaign is so good that Forbes magazine has declared it one of the 10 best travel promotion campaigns of all time.
And there are some signs that the campaign is having an impact.
This week, Gongwer News Service reported that the Michigan Lodging and Tourism Association released a survey of its members Monday showing 72.9 percent had seen an increase in out-of-state visitors coming to their facilities over the summer compared to last summer.
“It’s pretty clear the ‘Pure Michigan’ ads are helping draw visitors from other states to Michigan,” said association President Steve Yencich. “Nearly every member who has experienced higher traffic from other states says that guests routinely mention they have seen the ads and how great they are.”
Advocates for the continuation of the campaign are hoping that the $30 million provided for the ad campaign for the current fiscal year will be made a permanent part of the budget.
The funding plan, contained in a package of bills pending in the state House and Senate, proposes a $2.50 use tax on rental cars for out-of-state visitors that would be assessed when a vehicle is rented from an airport, hotel or convention center. The bill would exempt rentals made because of insurance claims or car repairs. Estimated annual revenue from this measure would be $13 million and the tax would expire in 2014.
Other bills would divert a portion of sales tax revenue from travel businesses like hotels and resorts to create up to a $40 million revenue source for tourism and business promotion.
According to Greg Ayers, president of Discover Kalamazoo, “Four years of independent research has found for every $1 invested for tourism advertising and promotion, $2.86 in new sales tax revenue and $40.81 in visitor spending, with much of it coming from outside of the state, has been realized.
“What other industry can generate this type of return on investment?”
The operative word in Ayers’ remark is “investment” — and that’s exactly how this campaign should be viewed — as an investment.
The key to a healthier future for Michigan lies in the strategic commitment state leaders make now to several priorities that build on this state’s greatest strengths: Education, of course, is vital. And agriculture is a mainstay.
But there’s another important sector that contributes to statewide economic health as well: Tourism.
Tourism is Michigan’s third largest industry and supports nearly 200,000 jobs. Visitor spending in the state exceeds $16 billion annually.
It’s not a bad idea to counteract all the “Rust Belt blues” we hear from the peanut gallery with a dose of sparkling Great Lakes and a walk in the piney woods.
It sounds like a prescription that’s good for what ails us.
“Pure Michigan” is an investment in a key sector of our economy — and the cost of the campaign more than pays for itself.
The Legislature would be wise to continue it.
— KALAMAZOO GAZETTE