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What Michigan's re-opening means for in-state travel, tourism industry

Posted at 8:27 AM, Jun 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-21 08:27:26-04

DETROIT (WXYZ) — Come Tuesday, June 22 most of the state's remaining COVID-19 restrictions will lift, including the broad mask mandate and limits on group gatherings.

“I’m all ready for everything, come on Michigan let’s do it," said an excited Tanisha Moore, still masked, picking up breakfast for her dad on Father's Day.

Overall U.S. travelers optimism is trending upward according to new data from Longwoods International, which surveyed 1,000 American adults in mid-June about travel sentiments.

It's information people like Dave Lorenz, the VP of Travel Michigan under the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, consider when deciding how best to market Michigan to potential tourists.

The survey found 87 percent of people have plans to travel within the next 6 months, compared to 57 percent back in mid-December.

Lorenz told Action News the areas of Michigan that need attention from travelers most right now are cities, like Grand Rapids, Lansing, and Detroit.

Their target audience right now is still Michiganders, people traveling in-state by car or those in nearby states like Indiana or Ohio.

"It’s all about the regions of the state and the sectors of the travel industry, how they will come back. Basically, northern Michigan did very well last year," Lorenz said.

He said reservations at state parks and campgrounds are already filling up, because people are still looking for activities where they can naturally social distance. His advice is book now.

“Leisure travel, especially up north, rebounding right now," he said. "Cities leisure experience travel, that’s going to be rebounding by the third or fourth quarter, maybe even into early next year.”

“It’s kind of like everybody’s got this pent-up demand for everything," said Michael Bagley, who is cautiously optimistic about loosened restrictions but is also concerned that people will move too quickly.

“It’s not over yet, and I think people still need to maintain their safety and be careful," Bagley told Action News.

Only 20 percent of people surveyed in the recent Longwoods International travel sentiment study reported the coronavirus would impact their travel plans. It was more than three times that in April of 2020.

Lorenz and his team at Travel Michigan didn't even have a budget to make new ads last year.

"Even without budget.. we put together an ad that was staff agency made just with families, and iPhone ad, that just basically used a radio ad that we had produced, the voice of Tim Allen from years earlier and that ad really seemed to fit," he said. "Here we were in a place where we felt we could use Pure Michigan the brand in a very unique way to bring people together."

Now, as his team looks to the future, they're optimistic -- but also waiting on an important piece of the tourism pie; Canadian travelers.

“We’ve been talking to our Congressional delegation, trying to urge them to get the Canadians to re-open that border. That’s a big issue for us. Ontario loves Michigan just as we love Ontario," he said.

The border between the US. and Canada will remain closed through at least July 21.