GR To Host Tourism Conference

March 2, 2008
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GRAND RAPIDS — Hundreds of tourist industry professionals, students and government officials are expected to descend on Grand Rapids’ Amway Grand Plaza Hotel April 13-15 for the annual Michigan Lodging & Tourism Conference.

Attendees will tour the Grand Rapids Art Museum and the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park as part of the convention’s activities, said George Zimmermann, vice president of Travel Michigan, part of the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

“We are showcasing some of the newer things happening in Grand Rapids. It’s a chance to see some of the best Grand Rapids has to offer as far as tourism products,” Zimmermann said.

They’ll also visit the JW Marriott. Michigan State University basketball coach Tom Izzo is a keynote speaker, along with Erik Hastings, host of “The Travel Show” on WABC Radio New York, and Josh Hallett, a new media strategist at California-based Voce Communications.

“We actually move the conference around to different sites around the state each year. It’s Grand Rapids’ turn,” Zimmermann said.

Called “Driving Tourism 2008,” the conference will feature sessions on a variety of topics, including a forecast from MSU; customer service; international marketing; recreational vehicles; a presentation from the Travel Commission; information about the “Pure Michigan” marketing campaign; green lodging; urban marketing; human resources; movie-making in Michigan; and working with the travel media.

Special events include the AAA Diamond Awards Luncheon and a Taste of Grand Rapids Breakfast Buffet.

There are five attendance packages at a variety of prices, ranging from $20 for students (seminars and workshops only) to an early-bird rate of $199 for full conference registration. The conference is co-sponsored by Travel Michigan, the Michigan Lodging & Tourism Association (formerly the Michigan Hotel, Motel & Resort Association) and Michigan State University.

Travel Michigan, MLTA and MSU are co-sponsors of the event. Registration and additional information is available at

“We are presenting this conference to any and every businessman or woman who has an interest in tourism, lodging, golf courses, convention and visitors bureaus, campgrounds,” said Steven Yencich, president and CEO of the MLTA.

Tourism is an $18.7 billion industry in Michigan and provides 200,000 jobs, Yencich said.

“We see tourism as one of the diversifications that Michigan needs,” Zimmermann added. “It also puts $1.1 billion into the state treasury in taxes. Michigan tourism jobs can never be outsourced.”

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