Last year proved to be a successful one for tourism in Ann Arbor. With the highest hotel occupancy in the state of Michigan in 2013 and a variety of annual events, Ann Arbor is becoming known for being more than just the home of the University.
On March 11, a Pure Michigan, the state’s travel and tourism website, reported that out-of-state visitors made more than 4 million trips to the mitten state, generating a record $1.2 billion for Michigan businesses. In 2012, 3.8 million trips brought out-of-staters to Michigan.
According to Pure Michigan, Ann Arbor ranks as the sixth hottest spot in the state of Michigan and serves as the third most clicked property on the Pure Michigan website. In 2013, more than 4 million people visited Ann Arbor.
Maricat Eggenberger, communications manager for the Ann Arbor Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, said Ann Arbor draws visitors through its museums, restaurants and festivals. It is primarily a destination for couples, followed by families with children.
“There are definitely people who travel out of their way to Ann Arbor specifically to visit Zingerman’s,” Eggenberger said.
A recently released survey delved further into the motivations of Ann Arbor tourists. The study conducted by the Ann Arbor Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, canvassed over 1100 respondents.
Summer and autumn are the most popular time to visit Ann Arbor. The Ann Arbor Art Fair, which occurs in July, brings in about 500,000 visitors each year from both regional and non-regional areas. Eggenberger said that some people drive as much as four to five hours to come.
Eggenberger added that Ann Arbor is an ideal spot for visitors in the Great Lakes region looking for that metropolitan experience in an area with nearby recreational activities. In the fall, many families come visit the University with prospective students or alumni attending football festivities.
Of all visitors, 48 percent have University affiliation, Eggenberger said.
The survey indicated that half of the residents in the Great Lakes area know Ann Arbor best for the University. The next best known draw was the Ann Arbor Art Fair, which 35 percent of participants said was Ann Arbor’s trademark. Its range of restaurants, medical facilities, Zingerman’s Delicatessen and high livability are other well-known factors.
This spike in Ann Arbor tourism can be felt statewide. Michelle Grinnell, the public relations manager for Michigan Economic Development Corporation, said the most popular time of year for tourism is the spring and summer. In Michigan, Grinnell said, golfing, fishing and going to the beach are all popular activities.
Good Morning America recently labeled Michigan beaches as some of the Most Beautiful Places In America, which has spurred an influx of tourists to those areas. Grand Rapids and Lake Michigan’s Gold Coast have been gaining popularity ever since named the 2014 U.S. No. 1 destination by Lonely Planet, a tourism website.
Grinnell said that this accolade helped put Grand Rapids on the radar for many people who hadn’t previously heard of the city or thought to go there. Grand Rapids, known as Beer City USA, attracts many microbrew enthusiasts. However, Metro Detroit remains the area with the most tourists due to its concerts and sporting events.
While the spring and summer are the most popular, the colder seasons attracts tourists as well. Grinnell said winter sports and fall colors are a huge magnet for attracting tourists.
“Not everyone has fall colors like we do here in Michigan,” Grinnell said.
Grinnell said that Michigan’s latest TV marketing campaign aims to target women in their late twenties to early forties who typically make the traveling decisions for their families.
“Our ads are really meant to evoke an emotion and make people say, ‘Oh I remember when I took family vacations to Michigan when I was a kid growing up and I want my kids to have those same experiences,’ ” Grinnell said, “Or, for people who may not have been to Michigan before, to evoke the types of experiences and memories that Michigan can create.”
— Daily News Editor Rachel Premack contributed to this report.