Pure Michigan campaign helped attract more out-of-state visitors this Fourth of July, hotels say

LANSING — Several years ago, about 80 percent of the cars parked at Baymont Inn and Suites in Mackinaw City would boast Michigan license plates, and 20 percent would come from out of state.
Now, it's more like 25-35 percent Michigan with the rest out-of-state, said Dan Trotochaud, owner of the 17-year-old hotel located less than a half mile from the Straits of Mackinac.

'I'm seeing cars from virtually every state in the country,' he said. 'It's really amazing that they've found little Mackinaw.'

Many Michigan hotels and tourism businesses saw more out-of-state visitors this Fourth of July thanks to the national Pure Michigan ad campaign, said Steve Yencich, president of the Michigan Lodging and Tourism Association.

'You can't get someone to buy a product that they don't know exists, and the Pure Michigan campaign is introducing Michigan as a beautiful vacation destination to millions across the country,' Yencich said.

The trade group surveyed its members and found that 62 percent of about 70 respondents experienced an increase in out-of-state visitors. Most saw increases ranging from 1-49 percent, but some reported as much as 50 to 75 percent or more.

The state-funded Pure Michigan summer advertising campaign attracted 3.8 million out-of-state visitors who spent $1.1 billion dollars last year. That's 580,000 more visitors more than in 2011, according to a study from Longwoods International.

The state's tourism office spent $13.7 million on summer out-of-state advertising last year, and the visitors it attracted paid more than $79 million in Michigan taxes, the study found.

The state received $5.76 for each dollar it spent on the campaign. Pure Michigan's cumulative return on investment since it started in 2006 is at $4.10, up from $3.70 Iast year.

Trotochaud credits the Pure Michigan campaign as the top driver, but he said his hotel's number 1 ranking on Trip Advisor also has attracted more visitors. He's seen a double-digit increase in overall business in each of the last few years.

Summerside Properties LLC in Traverse City has seen increased demand as well. The company includes Cambria Suites, Comfort Inn and Best Western.

The hotels could have sold all of their rooms twice for the Fourth of July and following day, said Ron Robinson, director of hotel operations. Traverse City's National Cherry Festival, which ran through the holiday, attracts visitors from all over the country. He estimates there were about 20 percent more out-of-state visitors to the hotels this year.

Hotels and tourism bureaus from southwestern Michigan also saw increased out-of-state traffic, Yencich said.

Pure Michigan television commercials aired more than 5,000 times on several cable networks from March through June as part of its $13 million national summer campaign. Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, Mackinac Island, The Henry Ford and Traverse City contributed a combined $3 million to have national ads featuring those destinations.

Email Melissa Anders at [email protected]. Follow her on Google+ and Twitter: @MelissaDAnders. Download the MLive app for iPhone and Android.

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