Editor's note: This story was published in the Record-Eagle's Economic Outlook 2019 section, inside Tuesday's newspaper. For more stories, click here to read the section in its entirety online.

Trevor Tkach

Trevor Tkach

It starts with a visit. Travel is an introduction to something new, something special, something important. A visit can lead to relocation. Or a college selection. Maybe even a personal or business investment. Regardless, visiting places is often a precursor to a serious life decision.

Traverse City Tourism (TCT) sees each visit to the region not simply as a business transaction, but as a life changing opportunity for the visitor. Inviting visitors from near and far to enjoy the splendors of the area is a courtship that hopefully leads to a more meaningful relationship down the road.

When visitors explore the wine trails, soak in the beaches, attend the festivals and hit the slopes, they are falling in love. One visit leads to another, and before you know it, the visitor is calling Traverse City home – even if home is still hundreds of miles away. Every moment spent in the Traverse City area pushes the visitor closer to a long-term commitment to our region.

The influence of travel on decision making isn’t just a romantic ideal, it’s been proven. A study of Pure Michigan by Longwoods International showed that destination marketing boosts willingness to move to a region, start a business, or start a career in that place by more than 50 percent. That percentage climbs even higher once they actually visit the destination.

As the marketing authority for the region, TCT welcomes all visitors but understands that not every visit is the same. We know that visitors traveling farther distances are more likely to stay longer and spend more money while they are in our region. We also know that if they are flying into Traverse City they are adding to the total flight volume which leads to more options and better prices for locals. We market to a target audience that we believe would be good visitors, but maybe even good neighbors someday too.

As our region continues to redefine itself as a tech hub and entrepreneurial playground, Traverse City Tourism aims to impress potential suitors at every turn. We deliver inspirational tools that draw professionals in and then work hard to keep their attention.

TCT has provided support to institutions like Munson Medical Center and Northwestern Michigan College in their recruiting efforts. We sponsor and support events like the Center for Automotive Research (CAR) conference that has been entertaining thousands of automotive decision makers and their families in the Traverse City area for more than fifty years. In fact, we have an entire department at TCT exclusively dedicated to recruiting business travelers, groups, and meetings to the region on days of the week and times of the year when we have the greatest need.

Business-related visits not only balance out the calendar, they help visitors fall further in love with a destination that is perennially recognized as the best region for just about anything your heart desires.

Over time, as the relationship between visitors and the destination matures, we have to invest time and energy to make it work. TCT understands the need to manage the dynamics between visitors and locals. We have committed to strategies and invested in staffing that will help lead best practices in destination development and policy into the future. Our goal is to encourage sustainable travel and focus on opportunities that will be beneficial to locals and visitors alike.

We know that one in six jobs in the five-county region directly depends on visitors. This articulates the importance of the visitor economy, but it also exposes a vulnerability — an extremely high reliance on one industry that, despite our best efforts, likely will always be somewhat seasonal.

The region needs to continue to diversify its economy in order to be successful. The visitor economy is a pillar, but it cannot stand alone. We must endeavor to capitalize on the success of our visitor economy by encouraging those visitors to stay, invest, commit to a long-term relationship.

It starts with a visit.

Let those words ring out in our community as something deep and meaningful to our future. Don’t let these visits simply pass us by. Make the most of each and every one.

Trevor Tkach is the president and CEO of Traverse City Tourism.

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