Tourism: Experts predict a good season
ESCANABA – Experts are predicting tourism this summer will be better than previous years as tourists travel to the the Upper Peninsula to enjoy new local events and attractions.
“I think we’re going to have a great summer. We’ve had three or four years of increases and that’s a good indication of where we’re going,” said Tom Nemacheck, executive director of the Upper Peninsula Travel and Recreation Association.
According to Nemacheck, more than 80 percent of U.P. tourism happens during the summer and fall months. For the last two years, tourist spending during these seasons has been up by between 5 and 7 percent.
“I think we could be up 5 or 6 percent this year if the weather holds up,” said Nemacheck.
Even though not all areas of the U.P. are affected by weather in the same ways, tourism in the U.P. as a whole is very weather dependent – even off shore.
“If we can get some really great weather and get some fishermen into our championship waters that will help,” said Steve Masters, director of the Bays de Noc Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The AYA Fishing Tournament, B.A.S.S. State Championship, Masters Walleye Circuit World Championship, and other fishing tournaments held in Delta County are events that bring in large crowds.
However, the fishing tournaments are not the only events expected to draw in tourists this summer.
“We’re looking forward to the benefits of the Esky150 celebration,” said Masters, referencing Escanaba’s 10-day sesquicentennial celebration set to kick off July 5.
While Masters believes that the celebration will bring a boost in tourism to the area and that many of these visitors will stay in area hotels and motels, he is not concerned about a lack of hotel vacancies.
“I think we’re going to have plenty of room for people,” he said.
Though not technically part of the Esky150 celebration, Masters predicts that the Heritage Half Marathon taking place during the celebration will draw in tourists, and will tap into a strong community of local runners.
“We’re hoping that the people who organized it will keep it going because we believe there’s room to expand,” he said.
Many of the other events which draw in large crowds to the area have long track records of success, such as the U.P. Trappers Convention, the Upper Peninsula State Fair, and the Logging Congress and Equipment Expo.
“Events really help to put heads in the beds,” said Masters, alluding to filling hotel rooms with visitors. Promoting overnight stays is an important part of tourism, because visitors who stay in hotels are more likely to spend money at local establishments, like restaurants.
While many people may believe that tourists need to travel, Masters noted local residents also can enjoy what their area has to offer.
“If they’re residents it’s not bad to take a day to be a tourist in your own hometown and visit some of the places you haven’t been in awhile or have never been,” he said.
For those looking to get way and see other parts of the U.P., there is no shortage of events, according to Nemacheck.
“It’s amazing how many things are going on all summer long,” he said, adding the Upper Peninsula Travel and Recreation Association website, www.uptravel.com, maintains an extensive list of events throughout the U.P.
“The communities that have events do better than the general tourism picture,” said Nemacheck.
Despite the sudden boost in tourism provided from events, attractions can be an effective way to bring in tourists as well.
“With the opening of new disc golf courses, we anticipate that will help bring people into the area,” said Masters, noting the courses being installed at Ludington Park and at Pioneer Trail Park.
Once tourists comes to the area, Masters believes their experience will be unlike anything they’ve experienced in other locations.
“It’s a great area. It’s safe, it’s beautiful, we have great products, and you can’t replicate the Delta County experience anywhere else in the United States,” said Masters.