If it wasn’t already Michigan’s tourism epicenter, Traverse City is sure to be in the spotlight April 19-21, when it hosts the Pure Michigan Governor’s Conference on Tourism.
The gathering – which has been held annually in various communities across the state – will attract industry leaders and lawmakers to discuss the latest trends, ideas and plans for all things travel and tourism.
The conference will take place at the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa and is expected to attract between 400 and 500 attendees. This comes at a time when surveys indicate Americans’ interest in travel is growing, but challenges remain for travel and hospitality businesses hit hard by the pandemic over the past two years.
“Our area still suffers a lot from this, and you see it in the smallest restaurants and stores and you see it in the biggest businesses,” says Trevor Tkach, president and CEO of Traverse City Tourism.
Keynote speaker Paul Ouimet, partner and president of travel and tourism consulting firm MMGY NextFactor, is set to share preliminary results from months of statewide research to craft a strategic industry recovery plan. travel. The research “will help us set a course after the pandemic,” says Tkach. “So I’m excited to hear about it, most attendees will be excited to hear about it.”
MMGY NextFactor’s work included stakeholder surveys and regional sessions, and there are localized results. “It’s really about how do we recover from COVID, both locally and statewide,” says Travel Michigan Vice President Dave Lorenz.
Ouimet’s presentation syncs with forecasts and trend analysis from Clayton Reid, CEO of parent company MMGY Global, the agency that handles marketing and advertising for Pure Michigan. MMGY Global surveys American travelers every year, and the back-to-back combination of the two presentations will be “fascinating,” says Lorenz.
Speaker Pauline Frommer, Co-Chair of Frommer Media LLC and Editorial Director of Frommer’s Guidebooks, will also offer thoughts on “what the traveler is looking for, how that may have changed due to COVID, and give us some tips on what we we have to do to attract travelers from all over the world,” says Lorenz.
International travel is the focus of keynote speaker Christopher Thompson, president and CEO of Brand USA, the national destination marketing organization and a critical partner for Michigan and other states seeking to attract international visitors . Brand USA’s work enables Travel Michigan and organizations like TC Tourism to spread their messages; “Whenever the door is opened, Traverse City and other Michigan destinations” are the beneficiaries, says Tkach.
More international information is presented in a breakout session with Travel Michigan representatives from the UK and Germany. It’s a big market and before the pandemic, travel from German-speaking countries, the UK and Ireland grew steadily over the years, says Lorenz. “We have to revive it.”
Additional sessions include inclusive hospitality consultant and strategist Zoe Moore, on diversity, bias and organizational culture, and a panel on agritourism moderated by Patrick Brys, President and CEO of Brys Estate Vineyard & Winery of the Old Mission Peninsula and a member of the Michigan Travel Commission. There’s growing interest among travelers wanting to experience the agricultural industry — from wineries and breweries to farmers’ markets, U-pick operations and dairies, Lorenz says.
The panel is expected to provide best practices and ideas for communities to develop their agri-tourism sector. And, it’s an important local opportunity to “highlight some of our strengths, help educate and inform the rest of the travel industry in the state,” Tkach says.
Funding for Pure Michigan is not on the agenda, but probably on the minds of some attendees. Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year 2023 recommends $15 million in general state funds versus $30 million for the current year from the state general fund and federal dollars from the state. American Rescue Plan Act.
“I certainly hope the conversation between the administration and lawmakers leads to a stronger budget, because we’re going to need it,” Lorenz says. Now, in the third year without a national Pure Michigan ad campaign (although there have been regional and national campaigns), “people are going to start forgetting about us, and we need to remind them. It takes time and it requires a certain investment.