The Pure Michigan Governor’s Conference on Tourism was held in Traverse City last week. Representatives from convention and visitor bureaus and hospitality professionals from across Michigan gathered to learn about the state of our tourism state.
We had a legislative report from a panel of lobbyists in Lansing. Our keynote speaker addressed the State of the American Traveler. And Dave Lorenz provided an update from Travel Michigan including plans for this year’s Pure Michigan campaign.
Since I know many of our clients missed out on attending I thought I’d share a recap of the event. Here are some of the hot topics, statistics and strategic plans discussed at the Pure Michigan Governor’s Conference on Tourism that caught my attention.
Pure Michigan Legislative Report
Panelists: Michael Krombeen, Partner, Midwest Strategy Group; Matt Sowash, lobbyist, Michigan Legislative Consultants; Justin Winslow, President & CEO, Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association; Evelyn Zois Sweeney, Legislative Consultant, Muchmore Harrington Smalley & Associates. The panelists discussed topics of legislative interest to the hospitality industry and weighed in on the current climate in Lansing.
Pure Michigan Funding
Governor Whitmer’s proposed budget includes cuts to funding for Pure Michigan. Panelists agreed this is too early in the budget talks to be certain of funding dollars for this year. Lobbyists from Michigan Legislative Consultants agreed they are going to educate and push for as much Pure Michigan funding as they can.
Post-Labor Day Start
This is not only an issue of economic importance, but a workforce issue as well. Currently over 165 districts have waivers for pre-Labor Day start. Legislative discussions are exploring alternative schedules. These include allowing Tues-Thurs classes in August, as well as options for year-round classes.
Legislation has been proposed to allow schools options to deal with the increasing number of snow days. Possibilities include tacking on additional hours to the school day, and snow day forgiveness for Governor-declared emergency days.
Short Term Rentals
Panelists discussed addressing short term rentals in terms of regulation. The primary goals are to ensure everyone is paying into the same taxes & assessments. They are also seeking some form of registration, possibly by directly licensing platforms such as AirBnB.
Auto No Fault
This is becoming a hot button issue for the hospitality industry as employees struggle to afford insurance. Panelists discussed the likelihood of making significant changes this year, with mixed opinions.
State of the American Traveler
Keynote speaker; Erin Francis-Cummings, Destination Analysts
Erin’s presentation, “The State of the Global Traveler – Drawing Wanderlust to Michigan,” presented statistics and trends to watch in 2019 among travelers. Here research reflected the mindset of global travelers, indicated some key demographics to focus on, and gave insight into the changes we’re seeing. Here are few take-aways that illustrate the current state of the industry.
- The bad news: Leisure trips are down from 4.2 trips annually to 3.8 trips, and budgets are down 5.6%. Personal finances, work and the cost of travel are the primary reasons for the decrease.
- The good news: Travel is still listed as the second most important leisure activity, just under spending time with friends and family. For younger travelers, however, travel competes with a lot more activities.
- 4 primary traveler types: Generation Z, the National Park Traveler, Family Travelers and Aspiring Michigan Travelers.
The youngest travelers are that of Generation Z—ages 15-24. To reach this audience you’ll need video. You can find them on Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat. Believe it or not they already make up 13.9% of the travel market.
National Park Travelers
This audience tends to be young and travels with their children. They use all types of planning resources. Primary interests include culture and food. They make up 31% of American travelers.
Representing 47% of American travelers, this is clearly a popular target audience. This group is largely made up of women who frequently travel outside the U.S. This is a very social audience with 50% using Facebook to post both before and after their trips. They like AirBnB and are drawn to cultural and culinary experiences.
Aspiring Michigan Travelers
This is an ethnically diverse audience, largely made up of millennials and Generation X. They like to research travel destinations through travel apps, social media and tourism bureaus. Online video is important and influential.
Only 16% of American travelers aspire to visit Michigan. So how can we compete with other states and attract more travelers to Michigan? (Can you believe we fall behind Ohio!) The number one reason a destination remains top of mind to visitors is because they’ve been there before. The influence of friends and family impacts 65% of travelers. To grow our Michigan brand we need to gain loyalty. We need our visitors to continue to share their love of this region with friends and family—especially if they’ll share it on their social channels.
Michigan Cares for Tourism
This 501c3 non-profit is made up of volunteers from the tourism industry who want to give back to projects across the state of Michigan. They tackle small projects throughout the year and host an annual multi-day volunteer event in a select location. This year’s project is in our own backyard.
Michigan Cares for Tourism is seeking volunteers for the 2019 event at the Grand Traverse Lighthouse in Leelanau State Park, September 16-17, 2019. There are enough projects for 325 volunteers! To register visit michigancaresfortourism.org. C’mon Traverse City, let’s send some volunteers to help our neighbors. It’s a good excuse to hang out in a park on a Monday and Tuesday in the fall.
To kick off the conference, MC4T held an event at Munson Manor where volunteers donated toiletries, cooked food and tackled painting projects. Check In Michigan, the organization behind the Pure Michigan Governor’s Conference on Tourism, donated $10,000 to MC4T, with donations made on behalf of the conference speakers.
Pure Michigan Campaign Update
Dave Lorenz, Vice President of Travel Michigan made his annual trip to the stage to provide an update on the state of our tourism state. He delivered a report on the investment and returns on the 2018 Pure Michigan campaign. Next he shared a few highlights and top performing projects which earned significant results. And we wrapped up by hearing about some focus points for 2019. Here are a few of the take-aways.
Measurable Results from the $16.5 Million Advertising Investment in Pure Michigan in 2018
- Influenced 6.4M person-trips
- $2.5B in visitor spending
- $153M generated in state taxes
- $9.28 return on investment
Want to check out all the details? Here’s a link to the Pure Michigan Advertising Effectiveness Study. You can find more about what Travel Michigan is doing for you on Michigan.org. At the bottom of the page click Travel Industry and then look for Research.
Social Media Summary
Nick Nerbonne, MEDC Digital Media Director responsible for Pure Michigan social media accounts provided some additional insight during one of the social media sessions. Facebook engagement is down, however user base is still growing. Instagram engagement is up by 75%, due in part to the popularity and use of Instagram stories.
Pure Michigan has been exploring some longer-format feature videos to provide in-depth experiences. They include interviews that explore why people are passionate about these activities.
Two hugely popular social media campaigns were hashtag projects that drove user-generated content. The #FallFilter invited fans to share fall photos. Pure Michigan selected 5 photos each Friday and reposted. Another campaign debuted on billboards in Chicago seeking images at #LongLiveSummer. The digital billboard published user photos from that hashtag, sharing them on billboards for all to see.
Top social media post subjects in 2018 from Pure Michigan included images of the Mackinac Bridge, fall foliage, wildlife, ice waterfalls, Vernors lighthouse cans and blue ice on the Straits of Mackinac. Favorite fan subjects to share were sunsets, fall colors and Michigan lakes.
Pure Michigan Ad Campaigns and Projects
Pure Michigan partnered with influencers and publications last year to grow their brand awareness. Ginger Zee, meteorologist on Good Morning America and a Michigan native, was part of a social media promotion. They also teamed up with Outside Magazine for an engaging online experience that involved video creation, a landing page and interactive trail map.
Other notable projects included the Pure Michigan 18 – featuring 18 signature golf holes across the state in a season-long invitation to share your experience playing that hole. And an Urban DNA video series with Jason Hall was created to boost the state’s appeal for travelers seeking a world-class city experience.
We wrapped up with some sneak peeks into plans for 2019. Pure Michigan intends to focus more on digital platforms, targeting millennials, promoting the Upper Peninsula and highlighting our Dark Sky Parks.
Accessibility Takes Center Stage
One other significant take-away which made me very proud is our state’s focus on accessibility. If there was one buzz-word of this year’s conference that would be it. All three winners of the Stars of the Industry award for tourism innovations were programs and organizations supporting accessibility. Pure Michigan is embracing the opportunity to make our state more friendly to people with disabilities. And I for one couldn’t be happier to see it.
With three days of meetings, events and networking there was a lot to take in at the Pure Michigan Governor’s Conference on Tourism. It was great to see the new conference center at the Park Place Hotel, and the remodeled Governors’ Hall at the Grand Traverse Resort & Casino. Traverse City Tourism played host to a bustling crowd of tourism professionals from across the state. And I even had a chance to meet a few people who mentioned they tuned in to our channel and saw me on TV!
Now it’s time for us all to return to the business we live everyday: celebrating the reasons we choose to call Pure Michigan our home.