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Published in Economic Development

Travel Michigan opts for in-state, regional tourism campaign

BY Thursday, April 22, 2021 10:31am

The Pure Michigan campaign that for 15 years has worked to brand and change perceptions of Michigan will focus on in-state and regional travelers this summer as opposed to a nationwide campaign.

Travel Michigan, an arm of the Michigan Economic Development Corp., is spending $7.5 million on a warm weather advertising campaign that started this month across the Midwest. Another $1.6 million from 20 industry partners adds to the promotion and includes $400,000 contributions each from Traverse City Tourism, Experience Grand Rapids and the Great Lakes Bay Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau.

In mounting only in-state and regional campaigns this year, and encouraging people to “travel safely” amid COVID-19, Travel Michigan decided to forgo national ads that have helped to draw vacationers to the state from as far away as New York, Texas and elsewhere.

“This is not the year to be doing that anyway” as the COVID-19 pandemic drags on into a second year, Travel Michigan Vice President Dave Lorenz told state lawmakers this week.

“A big part of our plan this year is to keep people in the state,” Lorenz said in a presentation to the House Commerce and Tourism Committee. “Frankly, if we were to have a nationwide campaign it wouldn’t be helpful because we want people to travel, we just don’t want them to travel far. We want them to stay in the state, we want them to stay in the region, and we want them to do it safely.”

Pure Michigan resumed after the campaign went unfunded in the state’s 2020 fiscal year and operates in 2021 with $15 million, far less than the $35 million to $36 million legislators appropriated annually to Travel Michigan. Lorenz called the $15 million for Pure Michigan an “appropriate amount for us this year because we’re on this ramp-up time right now.”

In promoting the state as a summer travel destination, Travel Michigan ads will focus on “lesser known” places, encourage people to travel safely, and use a theme of “let’s catch up” for lost time to push a revival of the industry.

“The industry has been absolutely wrecked by COVID and the impacts of the necessary changes that we’ve had to make to societal norms. Pure Michigan’s going to play a big role to get us back on track,” Lorenz said. “We need to do, of course, all we can for businesses, for communities, all across the state, and we’re going to do this with a smaller budget than we’ve had in a long time.”

The warm weather campaign that began this month runs through July 4 and uses television, radio and billboard advertising in key markets. The ads target Chicago, Ft. Wayne, Green Bay, Minneapolis, Toledo, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, South Bend, St. Louis and Louisville. In-state ads run in Detroit, Flint, Grand Rapids, Lansing, Traverse City, and Marquette. Travel Michigan also uses digital and social media ads.

All ad graphics carry a “travel safely” icon to encourage people to follow safety protocols, Lorenz said.

“Everything we’re doing right now is about travel, trying to encourage people to do the right thing,” he said. “We do want people to safely travel to get our business community back, to get those jobs back, and we’re not going to wait for a better time. We need to start that communication now.”

Travel Michigan credits the Pure Michigan promotion for driving $26.3 billion in 2019 that generated $2.9 billion in state and local tax revenue and directly supported 230,000 jobs. The agency does not presently have data for 2020. 

Even if it did, Lorenz said, “Those numbers would be bleak anyway.”

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