Visitors Bureau President: 2012 "A Record Year" for Traverse City Tourism

According to Smith Travel Research, an international tourism research firm, average room occupancy in Traverse City as of Oct. 31 stood at 60.96%, compared to a 58.9% average for the state of Michigan and 63.2% nationally. Although Traverse City still lags behind the national average, he said, it has made “significant strides” during the past few years.

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Aerial view of Traverse City

Aerial view of Traverse City

“It’s sort of the best of both worlds. We’ve been able to reduce our dependence on the Michigan market by growing our out-of-state business, and increase our business from Michigan at the same time.

Traverse City, MI (PRWEB) December 06, 2012

The president of the Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau reported Tuesday that 2012 has been another record year for tourism in the Traverse City area.

At the Bureau’s annual meeting, president Brad Van Dommelen quoted figures compiled by Smith Travel Research, an international tourism research firm showing that average room occupancy in Traverse City as of Oct. 31 stood at 60.96%, compared to a 58.9% average for the state of Michigan and 63.2% nationally. Although Traverse City still lags behind the national average, he said, it has made “significant strides” during the past few years.

During the same period, the average daily rate per room was $117.90 in Traverse City, compared to $84.08 for the state as a whole and $106.36 nationally. Revenue per available room – the standard used most often by the hotel industry -- was $71.40 in Traverse City, compared to $49.52 in Michigan and $67.18 nationally.

Just as significant, said Van Dommelen, statistics show that the Bureau’s efforts to increase the percentage of visitors coming to Traverse City from outside the state of Michigan are beginning to bear fruit. For the past two years, the organization has channeled 75% of its advertising budget into campaigns that reach outside Michigan to other states and countries.

“Michigan will always be our most important market, but for the health of our industry we don’t want to be too dependent on any one market,” said Van Dommelen.

In 2006, an estimated 87.5% of the community’s visitors came from inside the state; by 2011 that percentage had been reduced to 76.4%, and this year it was 74.2%, he said.

Significantly, however, the change hasn’t been caused by any decrease in travel to the area by Michigan visitors; to the contrary, their numbers have grown by 12% over the past year alone.

“It’s sort of the best of both worlds,” said Van Dommelen. “We’ve been able to reduce our dependence on the Michigan market by growing our out-of-state business, and increase our business from Michigan at the same time.”

The Bureau’s aggressive advertising and marketing budget has increased by 350% in the past two years, with paid advertising exceeding $3 million in 2012. It was made possible by a three-percent boost in the room assessment that funds the Bureau’s budget -- now around $5 million per year.

The Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau is a nonprofit agency created to serve as the destination’s principal marketing resource, stimulating economic growth through leisure tourism and convention business.

The Traverse City market area accounts for close to 10 percent of Michigan’s total visitor count (Grand Traverse County ranks second among Michigan counties in the number of people who come here purely for pleasure.) and tourists have a tremendous impact on the area's economy. More than 1.2 million overnight visitors stay in local commercial accommodations in any given year, and when you add "day trippers" and people who stay with friends or relatives, the total jumps to over 2.3 million.

Those visitors pump over $1 billion into the regional economy each year, supporting thousands of tourist-related jobs and generating indirect business for an even larger number of other employers in such sectors as health care, retail, entertainment, building construction and community services.

Traverse City has long been treasured by Michigan residents for its matchless scenery, colorful history, imaginative cuisine and laid-back friendliness, as well as the low humidity, warm sunshine and cool coastal breezes that make its summers so comfortable. It has remained relatively unknown outside the state until recently, but is now receiving a flurry of public attention.

This past year, National Geographic named Traverse City one of its Top 10 Summer Trips for 2012, while the Travel Channel ranked it among the Top Seven Beer Destinations in North America, and Budget Travel called it one of the 11 “Coolest Winter Places in America.” In December, Golf Digest listed it among its Top 10 "buddies-trip" golf destinations.