Traverse City Record-Eagle

Business

March 19, 2014

Andrew McFarlane: Tourism, drink scene a perfect mix(er)

TRAVERSE CITY — I recently had a chance to ask Pure Michigan Vice President George Zimmerman why they’d selected Traverse City to host this year’s Pure Michigan Governor’s Conference on Tourism.

He said it was our well regarded and accessible foodie scene that made us the perfect choice for the 2014 Conference and its theme of culinary tourism.

That’s no surprise.

Traverse City has captured a string of accolades for our food and drink scene in recent years, from being named one of America’s top 5 foodie towns by Bon Appetit to receiving recognition as an emerging beer town by Draft magazine to nods from USA Today, Trip Advisor and Touring and Tasting Magazine for our wine industry.

Some may wonder when we’ll have too many wineries, too many breweries, or too many brands of whiskey, but more keep opening every year and enjoy success.

Projections for tourism growth, which is an important part of sustaining these businesses, are strong.

Pure Michigan’s 2014 Michigan Tourism Forecast presented by Michigan State University tourism professors Dr. Sarah Nicholls and Dr. Dan McCole at the conference predicted 1.5 percent growth in travel volume and a 4.5 percent growth in travel spending.

“Michigan has seen continued growth in wine and brewery tourism, which comes as no surprise since a recent study showed that 63 percent of U.S. residents desire gourmet healthy dining when they travel,” McCole said. “Nationwide more and more tourists want unique and local experiences. What better way to have a unique experience at a destination than to consume the food and beverages produced there?”

Conference presenter Rebecca LeHeup of the Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance spoke of weaving food and drink into a visitor’s overall experience, noting food and drink tourism isn’t just for a narrow slice of the visitor market.

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