Ferry Service Excites Promoters

January 23, 2004
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GRAND HAVEN — The spring launch of high-speed cross-lake ferry service has shoreline tourism promoters looking at partnerships to keep in the region for an extended visit the thousands of Wisconsinites who’ll sail into West Michigan annually.

The ferry provides travel bureau directors along the Lake Michigan shoreline an opportunity to work together to promote West Michigan to prospective visitors on the other side of the lake. The Milwaukee-to-Muskegon service offers tourism attractions and destination communities an instant connection into the Milwaukee market that otherwise would take years and thousands of dollars in marketing dollars to cultivate.

“It’s not every day a market the size of Milwaukee opens up to us,” said Marci Cisneros, director of the Grand Haven-Spring Lake Area Visitors Bureau. “It’s pretty special. We’re going to try and take advantage of that as best we can.”

The Grand Haven-Spring Lake Area Visitors Bureau last week hosted a briefing on the new ferry service so representatives from the Port of Milwaukee and Lake Express LLC could update Grand Haven-area business leaders on the venture.

Lake Express plans to start high-speed ferry service across Lake Michigan on June 1, running three roundtrips daily between Muskegon and Milwaukee. The 192-foot vessel will have the capacity to carry 250 passengers and 46 cars and cross the lake in about two and a half hours.

Led by the Muskegon County Convention & Visitors Bureau, which this summer will heavily promote Muskegon in Milwaukee as a travel destination, tourism promoters are formulating a marketing campaign that will seek to lure visitors from Wisconsin to West Michigan.

The hope is that travelers coming into Muskegon from Milwaukee will spend time in the immediate area and fan out to visit other West Michigan destinations before heading home on the ferry or by driving.

Market research shows that many people visiting the lakeshore tend to stay there and take in other communities during their stay, a point that underlines the need for collaboration to promote the region to Milwaukee for the benefit of all. As the nearest community to Muskegon, Grand Haven’s tourist economy has a chance to benefit from the ferry service, Cisneros said.

“We look forward to having the influx of travelers so close,” Cisneros said.  

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