Michigan’s tourist towns celebrate a beautiful summer and turn their attention to fall
HOLLAND – As the busy summer season begins to wind down, regional tourist offices are turning their attention to the approaching autumn season.
Summer in Michigan is a must for many, and cities have entered the summer with high expectations after the past two seasons broke records. This year, with high gas prices and rising inflation, tourist towns again experienced high traffic as people chose to holiday closer to home instead of jumping on planes. .
“It’s been a great summer,” said Linda Hart, executive director of the Holland Area Visitors Bureau. “Our events, our Dutch attractions and especially our city center seemed to be busy every day, so much so that many traders, restaurants, friends and visitors commented on how busy Holland was in the middle of a week.”
According to Hart, hotels in the West Michigan beach town hit 80% occupancy in July, up from 86% in 2019 — but the figure is misleading, as Holland has more hotels than three years ago, and therefore no more rooms to fill.
“We actually sold more room nights,” Hart said. “That was great. We decided that all metrics showed that Holland was doing very well, including website traffic, number of visitors and overnight stays.”
Traffic tends to slow down in the state after Labor Day as children return to school and the weather cools. Many tourist boards strive to increase off-season traffic, in order to make the tourist economy sustainable all year round.
Further north, Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau executive director Jim Powell said they will focus on two marketing campaigns: Extend Your Summer and the regular fall campaign.
Fall and spring tend to be the slowest seasons for Petoskey, with summer being its peak and winter being popular for snow sports.
September events in and around Petoskey include the Balloons Over Bay Harbor, the 27th Annual Taste of Harbor Springs, and the Harbor Springs Book Festival, all of which help drive traffic to the area after the Work.
Events tend to slow down in October, but hiking and other outdoor activities still draw people to the area. This year, visitors and residents can enjoy the opening of the world’s longest wooden tower skybridge at the Boyne Mountain Resort in Boyne Falls. The bridge will allow a bird’s eye view of the dead leaves.
“It’s kind of one of the highlights of the fall,” Powell said. “They’re aiming for, I think, that early September period to open it up. It will certainly be an amazing opportunity to experience this among the fall colors up there. (It’s) definitely something we’re excited to help them promote and raise awareness.
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Fall color tours are a big part of Michigan tourism from September through November, depending on when the leaves decide to turn. Sault Ste. Marie Area Visitors Bureau executive director Linda Hoath said with the region’s focus on outdoor activities, the fall colors are the main driver of tourism in the east. from UP after Labor Day.
“That’s why they come here and not just to drive, the boat tours do a great job of showing the color of the area,” she said. “So it’s about the color in the fall.”
It’s no secret that interest in outdoor recreation has increased after the COVID-19 pandemic. Hoath said very few businesses in Sault Ste. Marie has closed due to the pandemic, and others are opening.
Hoath said the first six months of 2022 saw a 55% increase in revenue, proof that Sault Ste. Marie has had one of the busiest spring and summer seasons ever.
Back in the Lower Peninsula, Cheboygan has seen significant new development over the years. Carole Yeck, executive director of the Cheboygan Visitors Bureau and the Cheboygan Region Chamber of Commerce, said new businesses and events have helped the town increase its tourist traffic.
“There are a lot of summer residents that fill our town and so our (summer) has been pretty consistent and good,” Yeck said. “A lot of that is because we’ve added so many new storefronts to downtown Cheboygan, and it’s really starting to blossom and thrive here. So we’ve seen a lot of traffic this summer, despite gas prices.
“During the pandemic, I feel like Northern Michigan has been a haven for a lot of Michiganders. They came here where they could be outside and they could enjoy it and get out of the cities.”
Holland is also turning its attention to highly anticipated fall events, including its annual Fall Fest – which combines live pumpkin carvers, a farmers market and a craft market for two days of fun. The event takes place from Friday to Saturday 7 and 8 October.
“We also have our Civil War Muster, the ongoing farmers market, self-serve pick-ups,” Hart said. “From what I’m hearing from farmers and orchards, there’s going to be a super cop. We also have a wonderful cycling community with colorful routes in Grand Haven and Saugatuck. It’s a bit of everything.”