Travel Michigan Finds Funds For Promoting Fall Tourism

June 17, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — Reaction from tourism directors and travel-related businesses across the state convinced Travel Michigan to alter its plans and conduct a limited fall tourism campaign this year.

While "meager" when compared to the promotions of the past — $233,000 this year, versus more than $1 million in previous years — the 2001 fall travel marketing campaign will at least provide some promotion for the state's $10 billion travel industry, said Cindy Snyder, Travel Michigan's media relations manager.

"It's by no means as extensive as we'd like, but at least we are out there," Snyder said.

Citing a flat budget and rising television ad rates that went up by nearly 20 percent in some key markets, the agency decided to put its entire $3.4 million 2001 marketing budget toward promoting the "warm weather" summer travel season to lure travelers from Chicago, Cleveland, Indianapolis and Green Bay to state destinations. That left nothing to spend to promote the state as a travel destination for this fall.

Travel Michigan decided to alter that plan after hearing from industry representatives. Adding to those voices is the growing importance of the fall travel season, which traditionally lasts from mid-September through the end of October and generates an estimated economic impact of about $2 billion statewide.

"We didn't think we'd be able to do it, but the industry was concerned. We were able to shuffle some things around," Snyder said.

That shuffling consisted of trimming the summer marketing budget by $233,000 and earmarking the money for fall, she said.

The campaign, devoid of television ads, will target Chicago, Indianapolis and Green Bay and consists of radio spots and print ads in the Sunday travel sections of local newspapers. Travel Michigan will also use direct e-mail ads to lure travelers to Michigan.

Travel Michigan had decided to cut its fall campaign after a request to increase its marketing budget by $500,000 for the state's 2001 fiscal year, made in response to rising television ad rates, was rejected. A subsequent $500,000 increase request for fiscal year 2002 also met with the budget knife.

The agency, in addition to reinstating its 2001 fall campaign, will conduct a similar promotion in 2002, with preliminary plans to budget $233,000 to $250,000 for next fall, Snyder said.

Travel Michigan, meanwhile, is looking to shore up its funding through alternative means in the wake of tight state budgets.

Ideas on the table include trying to secure corporate sponsorships for promotions and increasing advertising in its annual publication, "Travel Ideas." One possibility is a co-branding partnership similar to one Pepsi had this past summer where it gave away coupon books with its soft drinks to local attractions around the state.

"We're looking at ways along those lines that may generate a way for us to get that message out there to brand us as a key travel destination," Snyder said.

Richard King, an assistant professor at Grand Valley State University's Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management, believes there's plenty of room to re-think how the state funds its tourism promotion.

"Should the tourism industry be solely promoted by public dollars? No. That promotion generates private profits," King said.

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