With the state of Michigan facing serious economic problems, it would make little sense for it to abandon its second most lucrative industry. While the auto industry continues to drag the state down, the money put into promoting Michigan tourism continues to pay off. The $30 million “Pure Michigan” ad campaign, aimed at out-of-state vacationers, provides a short-term boost that is well worth the cost. Unfortunately, it does little to address the state’s long-term economic problems, which the state legislature seems less eager to address.

Sarah Royce

Promoting Michigan as a vacation destination and expecting returns may come as a surprise to many (especially after the recent blizzard and extended cold spell). But with world-class attractions like Mackinaw Island, weekend destinations like the Sleeping Bear Dunes and the miles of solemn Great Lakes coastline, the state actually has a lot to offer. Every year, millions of tourists come by to enjoy skiing, hunting, camping and, of course, thousands of miles of beaches.

The tourism industry is not, however, immune to the economic problems of the region. Unemployment is high in these last throws of the state’s decades-entrenched manufacturing-based economy. Ultimately, this means that Michiganders have less money to spend on vacationing. Considering that as much as 70 percent of Michigan’s tourism revenue comes from in-state residents, this does not bode well for the industry. And it makes focusing on out-of-state tourists all the more important. Unfortunately, many people outside of the state remain unaware of what it has to offer. They think of Michigan only in terms of bad roads, worse weather and maybe the Pistons.

The state legislature is taking action to correct this issue. This year, it has opted to continue the “Pure Michigan” advertising campaign. The effort is part of a two-year, $30 million drive to boast tourism through advertising directed at out-of-state vacationers. When tourists come, they are certain to spend money, so tourism helps support small businesses and to encourage economic activity as well. The ads also serve encourage Michigan residents to vacation in their state, informing them of possible vacation opportunities.

In a state facing an economic crisis, even as the rest of the nation rebounds, the advertising blitz is a good way to support a vital industry. The success of tourism in 2006 is due, at least in part, to this campaign. The number of out-of-state tourists was up considerably, and many business owners credit the ads. It appears to be an effective program, and the legislature should continue efforts to keep tourism a productive industry.

But keeping that in mind, this is not a long-term solution to the problems Michigan is facing. Tourism helps to bring vitality to the economy, but it cannot replace the high-paying jobs once provided by the auto industry. To do that, the legislature needs to place funding where it belongs: education and technology that can spur the growth of a stronger and more diverse economy. “Pure Michigan” ads may alleviate the economic problems in the short term, but legislators cannot afford to take a vacation just yet.

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