Catch Up is a primary theme of this year’s Pure Michigan advertising campaign, now appearing on televisions and computer screens across the Midwest. The spots will run through July 4.

The campaign is intended to encourage potential travelers to make up for vacation pleasures lost last year because of the pandemic. A release about the campaign states that the state still encourages “businesses, tourists and communities” to follow and promote COVID-19 safety guidelines.

Industry partners Traverse City Tourism, Experience Grand Rapids and Great Lakes Bay Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau each contributed $400,000 toward the seasonal pitch thrown by the state’s marketing arm, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

The ads will appear in markets including Chicago, Ft. Wayne, Green Bay, Minneapolis, Toledo, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, South Bend, St. Louis, and Louisville, as well as Detroit, Flint, Grand Rapids, Lansing, Traverse City, and Marquette (digital only). In addition to television, Pure Michigan ads also appear on the internet, billboards and radio in select markets — and inside two electric buses making the rounds in Chicago.

The goal is to attract tourists to Michigan. Tourists do more than stay in hotels and campgrounds. They also eat potato chips, drink whiskey and buy cargo shorts. Tourists keep many local residents busy: mechanics solve roadside problems, janitorial workers keep things clean, store clerks keep shelves stocked, medical professionals deal with ear infections and other vacation maladies.

Tourism money finds its way into all sorts of nooks and crannies scattered across our local economy.

The tourist industry took a major hit last year as the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the globe like a thick fog rolling across the bayou in an old black-and-white horror movie. Like that pervasive swamp mist, coronavirus slipped in everywhere, affecting every community, every segment of the economy.

Northern Michigan in 2020 wasn’t locked down as tightly as the southern third of the state. Traverse City hotels had a better year than some had feared. But business in the region still was down substantially from normal.

Fewer visitors translated into lower sales for many of the region’s retail businesses, and into a slack year for many service industries. Restaurants were among the hardest hit by social distancing rules.

Vaccinations provide hope for reopening.

So the Pure Michigan campaign this year is encouraging tourists to “Catch Up,” to get back some vacation fun. That’s a wonderful thought.

But the Great Lakes State last week experience such a rise in coronavirus cases that it became a nationally recognized hotspot. Munson hospitals have seen a rapid rise in COVID-19 patients. More of our neighbors are testing positive in recent days.

I’m not confident that life will return to normal in the immediate future. I would like to catch up on lost time, but rising infection rates suggest the time to do that may not yet have arrived.

Like millions of other Americans, though, I do plan to go outside this summer in Michigan. I want to get out more in 2021 than I did in 2020. I dream of more socially distanced walks in the woods, more beach time with at least six feet of unoccupied sand around my towel. Maybe my wife and I will get our kayaks in the water, something we failed to accomplish in 2020.

I’m anxious to feel the sand under my feet, the sun on my shoulders. I’d like to paddle forward instead of just treading water.

The Pure Michigan campaign’s “Catch Up” TV commercial invites travelers to make up for lost time in Michigan, “a place where time is not measured in minutes, but moments,” according to the release.

Potential travelers can take a moment to view the digital version of the Pure Michigan Spring/Summer Travel Guide at michigan.org.

Pure Michigan’s 2021 warm weather advertising budget totals $7,588,254. The campaign includes 20 industry partners who contributed a total of $1,680,000.

In 2019, the summer ad campaign influenced $2.2 billion in traveler spending and $142 million in state tax revenue in Michigan, according to market research company SMARInsights.

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