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Sunday, 28 April 2013 22:00

Pure Michigan still ‘on the beginning of this journey’ to reach national audience

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Zimmermann Zimmermann

Even after the Pure Michigan tourism promotion generated its best return ever in 2012, George Zimmermann believes it can drive greater dividends for the state in the years ahead.

Research shows the promotion drew an estimated 3.8 million people to the state that spent more than $1.1 billion during their stay, and that Pure Michigan has 39 percent brand recognition nationwide.

The 61 percent who remain unaware of the promotion means that there’s plenty of potential for Pure Michigan to further brand the state as a national vacation destination, said Zimmermann, the vice president of Travel Michigan.

“We do have a long way to go on the upside,” Zimmermann said. “I still see us on the beginning of this journey.”

For now, the returns from Pure Michigan look good, as does an outlook for 2013 from researchers at Michigan State University.

MSU projects tourism spending to grow 5.5 percent in 2013 and travel volume to increase 3 percent. The 2013 growth will come after a 2012 travel season where spending grew by 6 percent and hotels in the state recorded their highest occupancy rate since 2000.

MSU attributes the strong 2012 tourism season to good weather last summer and fall, increased consumer confidence, gas prices that held relatively steady, and the success of the Pure Michigan tourism promotion.

“This year we’re waiting to see how the economy will fare when the effects of the sequester budget cuts set in, but barring a disruption to the economic recovery, we’re expecting another great year for Michigan tourism,” said Dan

McCole, an assistant professor in MSU’s Department of Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies.

If the forecast pans out, the returns from Pure Michigan could push even higher.

Regional and national campaigns last year brought in $5.76 in state tax revenue collected for every $1 spent on tourism promotion, up from $4.88 in 2011 and the best ROI since the state launched the Pure Michigan brand in 2006. The improvement for the overall promotion came on the strength of the national advertising campaign and despite a lower ROI from a regional campaign in Great Lakes states.

The cumulative ROI over seven years totalled $4.10 for $1 spent, up from $3.70 as of 2011, according to data from the Toronto-based tourism research firm Longwoods International.

“The Pure Michigan campaign plays a vital role in growing our tourism industry by consistently attracting new visitors to Michigan and delivering a strong return on investment for the state,” said Gov. Rick Snyder. “These impressive results showcase the power of Pure Michigan and demonstrate the vast potential we are seeking to tap into with our efforts to expand this campaign into international markets.”

Longwoods International presented the annual ROI report at this month’s 2013 Pure Michigan Governor’s Conference on Tourism in Detroit.

The data show that 3.8 million people visited Michigan last year from other states, an increase of about 580,000 visitors from 2011. About 2.3 million people came from states in the Great Lakes region and 1.5 million travelled here from longer distances, according to Longwoods.

The $8.7 million national marketing campaign generated a return of $4.45 for every $1 the state spent, with $554.9 million in new visitor spending and $38.8 million in state tax revenue for 2012. That compares with the $10.5 million campaign in 2011 that generated a return of $3.11 based on 1.2 million trips from visitors who spent $465.5 million and paid $32.6 million in taxes.

The $5.0 million regional campaign targeted at markets in the Great Lakes last year generated an ROI of $8.06, new visitor spending of $574.8 million and $40.2 million in state tax revenue. That return was down from 2011, when the state spent $3.8 million on a regional campaign that drove 2.0 million trips, $531.9 million in spending and $37.2 million in tax revenue for an ROI of $9.85.

Zimmermann said he’s not “overly concerned” with the regional ROI decline, since it still generated more trips over 2011 and visitor spending grew.

“If it becomes a trend over a couple of years, then we’ll take a look at it,” he said.

Zimmermann also notes that Travel Michigan has begun to steer more spending toward the national campaign since the further people travel on vacation, the longer they stay and the more they spend on their trip.

“It’s in the more-distance markets where we’re still introducing Michigan,” he said.

Travel Michigan received $25 million to promote the state as a travel destination throughout the current 2013 fiscal year. A $13 million national spring and summer campaign launched March 18 on more than 25 cable television networks and will feature 5,000 ads running through June. The spring and summer campaign includes $3 million that came from five private-sector partners – Grand Rapids, Mackinac Island, The Henry Ford, Traverse City and Ann Arbor – for customized ads, Zimmermann said.

Come next year – if legislators approve an additional $4 million in funding put forward by Gov. Snyder in his budget proposal for the 2014 fiscal year that starts Oct. 1 – Travel Michigan would target the Pure Michigan campaign to Toronto, step up marketing in Europe and start promoting the state in Asia by targeting travellers in Japan, South Korea and China.

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