State of Michigan gearing up for explosion of summer visitors

Posted at 5:30 AM, May 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-03 05:30:29-04

(WXYZ) — Michigan's vacation destinations are gearing up for an explosion of visitors this spring and summer. Places like Mackinac Island and Traverse City say hotels and attractions are booking up fast.

Last year was a strong year for Michigan tourism and now, with most COVID-19 restrictions gone, things will likely get a lot busier.

Inflation is driving prices through the roof and according to Bankrate, people are rethinking their vacation plans.

Some are picking driveable destinations, which means a lot of metro Detroiters are staying close or heading north rather than leaving the state.

Steven Ellison says he's looking forward to his first vacation of the summer in June. He's a teacher and plans to ship out three days after the school year ends.

He isn't leaving Michigan. His first trip is to Traverse city, then in July, he's headed to Petoskey, and finally Mackinac Island in August.

Ellison says it's important to keep his money local.

"You have to give yourself two or three months in order to get to where you want to go," said Ellison, "and to get the hotel that you want you to have to book early."

Ellison's reservations are locked in, but he didn't get all of his first choices.

"There were some places that were booked up," said Ellison.

Steph Castelein says that's not surprising. In 2021, Mackinac Island shattered records with $76 million in hotel room revenue.

Presales are also looking strong this year.

"Employees are coming back to the island, horses are coming back to the island everyone is kind of getting ready for the start of our season," said Castelein, the content manager for the Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau.

"I think everybody is gearing up for a very busy year," she added.

Downtown Detroit projections are high too. Between 2020 and 2021, hotel occupancy rose 33%.

The only issue is the tourism sector is down about 44,000 workers. It's a challenge Marie-Chantel Delese runs into at her Traverse City winer.

"It's been difficult for the past number of years to secure the number of employees that we need," said Delese, the CEO of the Chateau Chantel.

Wineries like the Chanteau Chantel say they'll be okay this season, but labor and supplies are costing more.

"Everyone is experiencing that no matter what your industry is, but I think having such an amazing resource in the back yard of big cities like Detroit or Chicago makes it a little bit easier to get to," said Delese.

Castelein says Mackinac is unique in that seasonal workers need to find housing because the island isn't easily accessible.

"Those are kind of two factors that we are obviously working with the city on, with our businesses with," said Castelein. "Everyone wants the community to thrive. That does mean full-time workers and seasonal part-time workers."

Ellison says even in the thick of the pandemic, the hospitality in these places was incredible. He likes that midwestern 'paradise' is just a drive away.

Advertising is a major tool for the state to attract visitors.

According to a report from Pure Michigan, in 2021, advertising influenced nearly 544,000 trips to Michigan from regional and feeder markets. On average, each visitor spent roughly $1,153. That's nearly $39 million in state tax revenue generation.