Traverse City Record-Eagle

December 4, 2012

Traverse City tourism: Going up


— TRAVERSE CITY — It’s been a record year for tourism in Traverse City.

Brad Van Dommelen, president of the Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau, told a gathering of members and local officials attending the CVB’s annual meeting at Great Wolf Lodge tonight that data from an international tourism research firm shows key tourism benchmarks are up.

According to Smith Travel Research, room occupancy as of Oct. 31 was 60.96 percent here compared to 58.9 percent statewide and 63.2 percent nationally. In Traverse City, the average daily rate per room was $117.90 — the national rate was $106.36 and $84.08 for the state. Revenue per available room was $71.40 in Traverse City, well over the state figure of $49.52 and $67.18 for the nation.

Van Dommelen credits a 3 percent increase in room assessments that was implemented in 2010 — from 2 to 5 percent — and generates close to $5 million annually as a game changer. The assessment allowed the CVB to focus its marketing on residents outside of Michigan. Its advertising budget has jumped by 350 percent in the past two years, with paid advertising exceeding $3 million in 2012, which includes everything from print, TV, radio, and billboards to wraps on Chicago city buses and large screens in New York City’s Times Square. In fact, 75 percent of the money is now channeled into campaigns targeted at other states and countries.

But even as the numbers of tourists from outside of the state are up, the region has seen an increase in in-state visitors.

“It’s sort of the best of both worlds,” he said. “We’ve been able to increase the number of Michigan residents coming to Traverse City as well as the percentage of out-of-state visitors.”