Chopping Pure Michigan funding hurts tourism jobs

Imagine a state-funded program that creates and supports thousands of jobs and generates $2.86 in new sales tax revenues for every $1 invested by Michigan taxpayers.
The program exists -- at least for now: It's the Pure Michigan advertising campaign. Unfortunately, Pure Michigan ads will go dark and the jobs and revenues they are generating will vanish unless the Legislature and governor act by Thursday.

Pure Michigan ads have been wildly successful. For the first time in history, the state this year had temporary funding to run Pure Michigan ads in all 50 states. The results?

Four years of independent research has found that every $1 Michigan invests in out-of-state tourism advertising now generates $2.86 in new sales tax revenues for the state. In addition, every $1 the state invests in tourism advertising generates $40.81 in total spending by tourists from other states, according to a Longwoods International study for Travel Michigan. Bottom line: Pure Michigan is generating a hefty profit for Michigan taxpayers.

Fifty-nine percent of tourism businesses surveyed this summer by the Michigan Lodging and Tourism Association reported an increase in out-of-state guests compared with last year.

The ads generate and support jobs and businesses in every Michigan county, with the biggest beneficiaries being urban regions. Tourism is Michigan's third-largest industry, employing 200,000 workers and generating $16 billion in economic activity.

This summer the beautifully produced and deftly messaged Pure Michigan ads were once again recognized as one of the nation's best and most effective tourism campaigns.

Bills are pending in the state Senate and House to provide permanent funding for Pure Michigan ads aimed at persuading tourists from other states to vacation in Michigan. Unless the bills pass, the Pure Michigan campaign will be reduced or eliminated in the new state budget, which takes effect Oct. 1.

With the support of a one-time appropriation from the Legislature this year, Pure Michigan commercials appeared on television in all 50 states. The ads ran on select national cable television networks and were buttressed by radio and print media ads in longstanding markets including Chicago, Indianapolis, Cleveland and others. The legislation in Lansing (House Bills 5017, 5018, 5088 and 5089, and Senate Bills 619 and 620) would generate $30 million a year, enough to support an annual national ad campaign.

In recent weeks, more than 5,800 people from across the state signed petitions urging the Legislature to pass the Pure Michigan funding bills. Tourism business owners wrote more than 750 letters to lawmakers and the governor calling for passage.

Pure Michigan is more than a great tourism advertising campaign. It is a pure business success story and probably the best example of a state-funded program generating big profits for the taxpayers who are paying the bills.

Mike O'Callaghan is executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau. Dan Musser is president of the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island.