EAST LANSING (AP) – Tourism isn’t expected to fare so well this year in Michigan, especially in the amount travelers spend in the state, industry leaders said yesterday.

Tourism officials need to focus on developing ways to attract more people to the state – instead of sending them out to vacation, officials said at the Michigan Tourism Outlook Conference at Michigan State University.

The sluggish economy and the threat of war with Iraq have put a damper on consumer confidence, which affects travel, said Don Holecek, director of Michigan State’s Travel, Tourism and Recreation Resource Center.

The center predicted a 2 percent increase in travel volume this year, but tourists will spend about 2 percent less.

Holecek said Michigan’s budget crisis and national and international uncertainties could further dampen tourism.

“The threat of more terrorism, with a possible disruption of fuel supplies, is the real wild card,” Holecek said. “And the uncertainty of war is a huge wild card.”

Holecek and others said declines in tourist spending over the last two years make it necessary to examine the industry.

Travel spending was down 10 percent in 2002, according to the travel resource center, though that didn’t mean people didn’t travel – they just spent less. Travel volume was up 3.1 percent. In 2001, travel spending was down 5 percent.

Holecek said state government should be more active in supporting the tourist industry because it is the second-largest industry in Michigan. But he also said the private sector should take an interest in addressing the economic development needs of state tourism.

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