Detroit — Tourism spending in Michigan is expected to increase by 5.5 percent in 2013, while the total number of visitors to the state is expected to rise 3 percent, according to an industry forecast released Tuesday.
The uptick comes after a banner 2012, when the state’s Pure Michigan tourism promotions attracted 3.8 million visitors who spent $1.1 billion.
Aside from some concerns over the effect of federal budget cuts, projections in nearly every facet of the industry — from hotel occupancy to visitor spending — were up in 2012 and are expected to continue climbing in 2013.
“We expect another solid year,” said Dan McCole, an MSU tourism professor who, along with MSU’s Sarah Nicholls, gave the 2013 industry outlook Tuesday at the Pure Michigan Governor’s Conference on Tourism at the Renaissance Center.
Their study found that, likely due to a sluggish economy, tourists these days are traveling less often, but are staying longer when they do travel. And they demand better-quality foods while on vacation, something Michigan offers in the form of craft beer, wines, and food.
Detroit now outpaces the nation in hotel occupancy, the first time it’s done so since 2001, the study showed. Hotel occupancy in the city is at 61.9 percent, higher than the nation’s 61.4 percent — and Michigan’s average of 56.8 percent.
Steve Yencich, CEO of the Michigan Lodging and Tourism Association, said the city’s seen a “tremendous rebound” in tourism and business travel.
“Pure Michigan, Pure Michigan, Pure Michigan,” he said, referring to the award-winning ad campaign that announced plans to expand nationally and internationally earlier this year.
The only downside in an otherwise rosy report was that consumer confidence is lower than it was a year ago, which McCole attributes to the federal spending cuts included in the so-called budget “sequester.”
Federal budget cuts have led to layoffs of air traffic controllers, and could lead to cuts in staffing and hours at national parks like Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore — which saw a 13.5percent increase in attendance during 2012.
“It’s not tragic,” McCole said. “But for a state that’s attracting a lot of new people, you want to put your best foot forward, and that takes a little ding out of it.”
Michael Martinez, The Detroit News.