By PAIGE LaBARGE
Capital News Service
LANSING— The tourism industry hopes spring and summer attractions such as bicycle races and food celebrations will increase the number of people who travel.
Mike Norton, media relations director for the Traverse City Convention and Visitors Bureau, said such events appeal to people in Michigan and beyond.
“There are a number of tourism events being expanded in the area, one being the Epicurean Classics,” Norton said. “This is a huge food celebration in September that includes some of Michigan’s top chefs.”
According to Norton, the event sparked a culinary revolution and put Traverse City on the map for major tourism gatherings.
Norton also said the Third Coast Bicycle Festival in August will bring people from all over the Midwest.
“It includes a road race through the area’s historic, cobblestone streets,” Norton said. “Last time it was held in Marquette, and now it’s our turn to be part of such a large event.”
“People don’t have money to travel to Las Vegas or Disney World, but it is less expensive to travel in-state to enjoy a vacation, and Michigan can do that for tourists,” Norton said.
Deborah Pardike, executive director of the Alpena Convention and Visitors Bureau, said her area is also planning events for the summer in hopes of a large number of attendees.
“The 37th Annual Michigan Brown Trout Festival takes place in July and it’s one of the oldest fishing tournaments in the state,” Pardike said.
According to Pardike, the nine-day festival includes music and entertainment. “We also hold the Thunder Bay Maritime Festival, which is only an eight-hour festival, but we expect upwards of around 10,000 people to attend,” Pardike said. This festival also takes place in July.
The higher numbers of visitors expected at those upcoming events is consistent with a new study by Dan McCole, assistant professor in the Department of Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies at Michigan State University.
McCole’s study forecasts trends in tourism industry revenue, hotel occupancy and travel.
According to McCole, new trends are helping to boost the industry.
“Business travel is rebounding faster than other types of travel, like leisure,” McCole said. “ Convention and tourism bureaus saw a bigger growth in business travel, which increases visitors at hotels and restaurants.”
McCole said that Southeast Michigan has the highest number of business travelers and Traverse City area has a high number of leisure travelers.
The forecast shows domestic leisure travel up 1.6 percent, business travel up 2.6 percent, international visitors up 3.7 percent and domestic spending up 4.8 percent for 2011.
“People are prioritizing travel in their lives and travel spending is outpacing other aspects in our state’s economy,” McCole said.
© 2011, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.