Michigan may be best known as a destination for freshwater coastlines and summer vacations, but as winter arrives, a whole new world of travel and recreation opportunities come to life throughout the state. In Michigan, we don’t hibernate during winter – we take a snow day.
Our state has more ski areas than any state in the country except New York and one of the nation’s top snowmobiling destinations – the Upper Peninsula – along with 6,500 miles of groomed snowmobile trails statewide. This time of year, communities in the UP and northern Michigan cater to travelers that are as likely to come through town on a sled as in a car.
For those looking for a new twist on winter fun, this is the time to mush your own dog sled team or hop on a fat-tire bike to explore trails even as the snow falls.
It should come as no surprise that winter is big business in Michigan. Last year, cold-weather tourism generated $3.6 billion across the state – highlighting the economic impact tourism continues to have in the state long after beach towels and flip-flops are packed away for the year. The Michigan Snow Sports Industries Association estimates the ski industry generates $4 billion in the state with ski areas open an average of 104 days a year.
Another key indicator we look at to determine how our tourism industry is performing is hotel occupancy rates. Last year’s winter occupancy rates were highest since 2002, when we started collecting occupancy data, with daily room rates trending upward for the season as well. Seeing the momentum from warm-weather travel carry over into our cold-weather months helps to illustrate the overall year-round impact of the Pure Michigan campaign.
Winter is about more than recreation though. Michigan hosts major events across the state during the cold months, including the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, the UP 200 in Marquette, the I-500 in Sault Ste. Marie and Gilda’s Laugh Fest in Grand Rapids. Events like these drive travelers, fill hotel rooms and generate important economic benefits for host communities.
The Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau estimates the Auto Show generates $400 million in economic spending in metro Detroit and city officials in Marquette estimate the UP 200 generates nearly $2 million in economic impact for the community during that three day event. Laugh Fest found that 40 percent of the people who attended the festival last year traveled to Grand Rapids specifically for Laugh Fest – an indicator of the power of events to drive travel. Once people are in town they rent rooms, eat out and visit other attractions spending money at local businesses along the way.
This is why we dedicate resources to promoting winter travel in Michigan. While our primary focus for national advertising will continue to be the warm weather months in Michigan, we are set to launch this year’s winter campaign on December 29. The winter campaign will run in markets including Chicago, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, Indianapolis, Cleveland, Columbus and Southern Ontario, and feature eight industry partners as well as our brand spots on radio and television.
We will also have digital efforts encouraging people across Michigan and throughout the Great Lakes region to take a snow day. There recently has been a great deal of attention paid to the number of vacation days Americans are leaving on the table each year. We want people to come to Michigan to take advantage of one or two of those unused days and remember the thrill and the excitement that accompanied a childhood snow day.
To help in that, we offer wide array of resources available for those looking to plan their Pure Michigan snow day. Michigan.org is a terrific starting point for information on winter activities across the state and also offers a statewide events calendar. The 2014 Pure Michigan Winter Travel Guide is available free in either a printed publication sent to your home, or in digital form for those who prefer to use their tablet or mobile device. The Pure Michigan social channels, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, are a terrific place to jump start your winter travel inspiration and hear from others about their snow day plans in Michigan.
So bundle up, grab a hot cocoa and head outside, because the forecast is in and its calling for a chance of snow.