Pure Michigan equals pure gold

About 50 years ago, an Illinois senator reportedly quipped, "A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking real money."

In 2012, in the world of Michigan tourism, the days of "a billion here" and "billion there" have apparently arrived.

A newly released study of the impact of the state's famous Pure Michigan ad campaign says that little more than $14 million in additional advertising prompted more than 3 million additional trips to the state by visitors -- trips that Longwoods International estimates generated a hair under $1 billion in 2011.

The report was released during a three-day conference on tourism that ended Tuesday

"I am surprised. I think everyone in the industry was surprised (at the size of the gain)," said Michigan State University professor Dan McCole, who studies the industry. "I don't mean that in a challenging way. ... I know it is hard to estimate (traveler) spending, but it seems like there is a real increase in out-of-state visitors. One of the things we keep hearing (from tourist businesses) is about the number of out-of-state customers, out-of-state license plates."

 The survey analyzed the Pure Michigan spending aimed at regional (think Midwest) markets and national (primarily South) markets.

Previous coverage

Pure Michigan credited with $605 million gain

Michigan reaches for upper rungs on tourism

Tourism upswing seen in U.P., statewide

Pure Michigan future still purely unpredictable

In the regional arena, Longwoods reported that the Pure Michigan ad buy of $3.8 million sparked 2 million additional trips with $532 million in spending. That spending generated $37 million in state taxes, for a rough return of $10 in public money for each public dollar spent on the campaign.

In the national market, the advertising budget of $10.5 million is credited with 1.2 million additional trips, generating $466 million in spending -- and $33 million in state taxes. That's roughly a 3 to 1 payoff.

“We are only in our fourth year of national advertising, but we are making progress toward our goal of making Michigan one of America’s most popular summer vacation destinations,” said George Zimmermann in a statement from Travel Michigan, which is part of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. Tourism is considered a $17 billion industry in Michigan.

A staffer at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, an entity long critical of the Pure Michigan effort, countered, saying, " The consulting firm, which has an incentive to find a high return, has apparently never seen a tourism campaign it does not like. ... Longwoods always finds a high return on every dollar invested in tourism."

Funding for Pure Michigan has had a roller-coaster existence with the Legislature.

McCole said that the Longwoods survey highlights again Michigan's huge advantage when it comes to natural splendor: "3,200 miles of coastline, sandy beaches, lighthouses." The targeting of potential visitors from the South and the increasing interest by tourists in agricultural attractions -- locally grown food, wineries, breweries -- are helping Michigan.

"This is really good news," said McCole, who helps craft an annual tourism forecast from MSU. The 2012 edition projects a 3 percent bump up in travel volume and a 6 percent increase in travel spending.

Senior Editor Derek Melot joined Bridge Magazine in 2011 after serving as an assistant editorial page editor, columnist and reporter at the Lansing State Journal, where he covered state and local issues extensively, earning awards from the Associated Press and Michigan Press Association. The Oklahoma native moved to Michigan in 1999.




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Thu, 03/29/2012 - 8:43am
I would hope this would finally show the Legislature the value in the Pure Michigan campaign. But given the Mackinac Center's comments, there will always be people who do not wish to be confused by the facts.
Thu, 03/29/2012 - 8:54am
A healthy dose of skepticism isn't a bad-thing... I'm a fan of the Pure-Michigan Campaign and actually derive my living based upon tourism and our States' attributes. I can't attest to the specific returns garnered through the advertising campaign though I'm pleased funding was eventually restored despite the politics associated with it.
christopher werner
Thu, 03/29/2012 - 12:18pm
I too have a business interest in the tourism industry and have seen positive gain from the Pure Michigan campaign. But beyond that, as a guy who is temporarily living elsewhere . . . the Pure Michigan commercials fill me with pride and a longing for home unlike any other advertising i have ever witnessed - and i am in the ad business. I am proud to say that soon i will be in "Mich-again" and the Pure Michigan campaign has been part of that decision. You forget what you have when are so close to it.
Jeffrey Poling
Thu, 03/29/2012 - 12:52pm
The Pure Michigan ad campaign proves the value of positive advertising. There is also immense power in negative advertising as everyone familiar with Detroit's national image can attest to. Just supposing; What if we could bring in 5,000 or so journalists, from all over the world into Detroit, on their own dime, and treat them to the positive side of Detroit which the national media has chosen to ignore? Well we already do that - almost. We bring in 5,000 journalists from 60 countries to the NAIAS every January - in the cold, bleak, grey slush of winter. They love the show but they don't have much good to say about Detroit including the fact that there is nothing to do. But if we moved the show to the warm sunshine of late summer or early fall, there is plenty to do, plenty to enjoy - the Gold Cup boat races on the Detroit River, dinner cruises on the Detroit River, Grand Prix races on Belle Isle, The Woodward Dream Cruise and the beauty of summer. Why are we wasting this opportunity?
Thu, 03/29/2012 - 12:57pm
This is a great investment on the part of the State. It's effects are very widespread in the State. Can't get much more fair than that.