By PAIGE LaBARGE
Capital News Service
LANSING — Travel Michigan, the state’s official tourism promotion agency, and its allies are focusing on advertising to boost visitor numbers and spending this summer. Efforts include development of new farm attractions such as on-site farm markets and petting zoos.
Dave Lorenz, managing director at Travel Michigan said his agency plans to boost the tourism industry through a media tour.
“Our tourism plans for summer consist of a media tour where we bring travel writers to help spread the message of things to do in Michigan,” Lorenz said. “We try to feature each season and things to do that are unique to the state.”
According to Lorenz, a recent Travel Michigan tour ended in Marquette, where the state brought 20-30 media writers to capture the essence of the area.
Another session is planned for August.
“In Michigan, we will push for great water tours to promote eco-tourism,” Lorenz said. “Our main goal is to promote the state in the summer by capturing events that are usually overshadowed by snowmobiling and other winter activities.”
Lorenz said summer event planning wouldn’t happen without the expected $25 million budget for Pure Michigan advertising.
The Legislature has approved another $10 million for Pure Michigan, and Gov. Rick Snyder has promised to sign the measure.
The new money will help reach in-state residents and out-of-staters, according to Lorenz.
“The budget would be split between $10 million for advertising and $15 million for in-state and regional marketing, which would really help the agency branch out to other states,” Lorenz said.
Promotion for summer events includes water-related activities near the Great Lakes, like waterfalls, beaches and shipwreck tours.
Mike Norton, media relations director at the Traverse City Visitors Bureau, said advertising to out-of-state residents is necessary when planning summer events.
“Michigan used to have low numbers of tourists because no one knows a lot about Northern Michigan or the Upper Peninsula,” Norton said. “With the help of Pure Michigan’s television and advertisement campaigns, we can now extend our events outside the state.”
Norton said Pure Michigan provides great economic benefit for the tourism industry.
“Northern Michigan has really benefited from the campaign,” Norton said. “It is our region’s landscape that’s advertised on those commercials and that intrigues people who’ve never been here before.”
Norton said there are challenges in attracting out-of-state or southern Michigan residents because their ideas of Michigan are either focused on urban settings like Detroit, or that northern Michigan is all farmland.
Pure Michigan offers a chance for people to change their minds. With the advertisements, the numbers have finally begun to grow, and tourism activities and agri-tourism events have been extended, said Norton.
Traverse City hosts the National Cherry Festival and the Traverse City Film Festival, along with other outdoor summer activities and agri-tourism events, said Norton.
Heather Throne, public information officer at the Department of Agriculture, said the department works with the Michigan Farm Marketing and Agri-Tourism Association to promote agri-tourism.
“In this season, there are markets offered on-site and in urban settings so they can attract a larger amount of people,” Throne said.
Val Vail-Shirey, executive director of the Michigan Farm Marketing and Agri- Tourism Association said the group are working on many different ideas to promote tourism in the summer.
“We are working a lot with electronics to reach out to the public,” Vail-Shirey said. “We’re creating a new iPhone application that will give directions and locations to farm markets throughout Michigan.”
California has started this application and Michigan will be the second state to use it, Vail-Shirey said.
“We’re also working with welcome centers in the state to advertise our summer activities like petting zoos and cider mills,” Vail-Shirey said.
She said there are challenges when it comes to combining agriculture and tourism.
“For individual farms, we have problems with local zoning, which prohibits these opportunities,” Vail-Shirey said. “Local zoning could stop us from creating parking lots or having large crowds at our events.”
© 2011, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.