This op-ed is written by Bob Lukens, the Director of Visit Muskegon.
Well, it’s 2020 and we begin the new decade with no funding for the successful Pure Michigan state destination marketing campaign.
While the recently approved supplemental budget restored funding for numerous important statewide programs for education, summer literacy, county jail reimbursements, new prison officers, road patrols, PILOT payments to communities, no-fault auto insurance reform, the independent redistricting commission, and other programs, Pure Michigan funding was not included in the supplemental budget.
That’s a real blow to communities large and small that partner with Travel Michigan/Michigan Economic Development Corporation to spread the Pure Michigan message to Midwestern, national and international audiences, bringing new visitors, new revenues, and new investment to Michigan.
Muskegon has worked hard for decades to shed its Rust Belt image and grow as a destination. We market our offerings to visitors outside our state, and this loss of funding for the national campaign will be a severe financial setback for Muskegon and all Michigan destinations moving forward.
The old adage, “out of sight, out of mind” holds true here. Colorado’s legislature zeroed out the state’s tourism budget in 1993 and their market share fell by 30 percent in two years, with revenue losses estimated at $1.4 billion per year. Funding was eventually restored in 2000, but by that time Colorado was losing $2 billion per year in tourism revenues.
The nationwide reach and success of the Pure Michigan campaign has contributed tens of millions of dollars of investment in Muskegon County alone, not to mention many other communities across the state that are investing in destination development.
Muskegon County has invested $19.7 million in development of a new convention center; an $8.2 million investment transformed a tired hotel in downtown Muskegon into a Delta by Marriott with a new full-service bistro-themed hotel restaurant; a new, branded hotel and a restaurant/entertainment facility are set to break ground in downtown Muskegon in spring 2020, representing an $18.5 million investment; and at least four new restaurants, two new breweries, two distilleries, and two brewery production facilities have opened or will open in Muskegon County in 2019 and 2020, representing an investment of more than $9 million.
Michigan’s Adventure – Muskegon’s largest attraction and the state’s largest theme park – will be making a substantial investment in Camp Snoopy, a five-ride Peanuts-themed attraction set to open in May 2020 at the 250-acre theme park and water park.
The Muskegon Winter Sports Complex’s plan to become a year-round destination is well underway with a new, 1,400-foot dual zipline installed and a 60-foot climbing wall under construction, both representing an almost $900,000 investment. The Mosquito Creek Mountain Bike Trails opened in 2019, representing an innovative public/private partnership and an investment of over $300,000, not including the County’s land donation of 50 acres.
The Muskegon Museum of Art will make a Spring 2020 announcement for a multi-million dollar expansion that will more than double its exhibition space. The Lakeshore Museum Center’s planned expansion, anticipated to open in 2023, will include new exhibit space, a children’s STEM Center, and public event space and will represent an investment of over $30 million. In Fall 2019, the museum unveiled a new outdoor sculpture and downtown scavenger hunt valued at over $140,000.
Visit Muskegon – the countywide destination marketing organization – and our local tourism and hospitality businesses invest in marketing our county and its amenities to out-of-state visitors, bringing “new” money to our state and our community. Partnering with Travel Michigan/MEDC on the Pure Michigan campaign allows Muskegon County to extend its reach to out-of-state markets. With 2018 visitor spending in Muskegon County exceeding $300 million, and state and local taxes collected in the county representing $38.14 million, these investments in our communities are contributing substantially to both the state and local economies.
Visit Muskegon and its tourism and hospitality partners urge the governor and state legislature to restore funding to this vital program that actually adds money to the state budget. The State of Michigan can’t afford to let local investment and local businesses suffer by abandoning our state’s national and international destination marketing program.
To submit an op-ed to the Muskegon Times, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.