Editorial: U.S. should follow Michigan’s marketing model

Published 8:26 pm Monday, June 6, 2011

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Michigan’s tourism industry saw dramatic gains in 2010, generating an estimated 10,000 new jobs as out-of-state leisure visitor spending soared 21 percent — the first time non-resident visitors outspent in-state travelers.

An extensive national survey of U.S. travel volumes and spending conducted by D.K. Shifflet and Associates showed visitor spending in Michigan jumped from $15.1 billion in 2009 to $17.2 billion in 2010 — the biggest one-year increase in travel spending in Michigan history.

“Michigan is becoming a national destination for visitors from across the nation, making tourism increasingly important as new visitors help our economy grow,” said Gov. Rick Snyder. “We expanded our Pure Michigan branding efforts early in my administration because they successfully tell the important story of Michigan, attracting visitors and investments to our state.”

The survey found $12.6 billion was spent on travel for leisure and $4.6 billion was spent on business travel.

The growth in visitor spending generated an estimated 13.4 percent increase in state tax revenue — $964 million in 2010, up from $849 million in 2009.

While leisure spending from out-of-state visitors saw double-digit growth for the first time, leisure travel spending by Michigan residents grew 6 percent in 2010.

Out-of-state business travel spending grew 9 percent during the same period. Overall, out-of-state visitor spending, including leisure and business travel, climbed 30 percent.

“To meet our goal of attracting more out-of-state visitors and their vacation dollars here to Michigan, we target the vast majority of our Pure Michigan advertising in other states, including our national cable television advertising buy and regional buys in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin,” said George Zimmermann, vice president for Travel Michigan, part of the Michigan Economic Development Corp. “With the 2010 travel numbers now out, we are pleased to see this strategy is working to grow our non-resident tourism base here in Michigan.”

Kurt Metzger of Data Driven Detroit reported last week that tourism-heavy counties in Michigan, such as Grand Traverse County and Leelanau County, saw some of the state’s best population gains in the 2010 U.S. Census — evidence the tourism industry continues to be an economic driver in Michigan.

Recent data indicates positive results for Michigan tourism in 2010 continue to carry over into 2011.

According to Smith Travel Research, Michigan hotel occupancy through April, 2011, is up 9.6 percent over the same period in 2010; a strong start on which the 2011 summer travel season can build.

The survey found 152,600 jobs were generated by Michigan’s tourism industry in 2010 — up 10,000 from the year before.

With high national interest in creating jobs, doesn’t it make sense to double down in areas where they are already being created?

America is the greatest exporter of culture — movies, TV programs songs, with more jobs than most imagine originating in the arts.

We always hear that our top-quality health care makes the United States a destination for folks around the world.

Do we do anything systematic to market that treatment?

And with tourism accounting for millions of jobs, do we as a nation even regard it the growing industry it is?

It’s time for a Michigan model.

We have no U.S. tourism department, no national ad campaigns, no apparent coordinated effort.

Rather than encouraging visitors, we devote time and energy to driving them off with an unfriendly visa and immigration process. We train the world’s best and brightest at our universities, often at taxpayer expense, then when they begin to patent inventions or start companies that create jobs, we toss them out, making our loss China’s or India’s gain.