May 23, 2014 at 1:00 am

LETTER

Tourism industry gives back

We face a barrage of news stories about government dysfunction and corporate greed. The sad fact is negative news sells and tends to push good news out of the spotlight. Happily, there are people in government and industry pulling together to make good things happen even though they might not get much media attention in the process.

Thanks to the efforts of Professor Patty Janes, and Grand Valley State University’s Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management, good news is being generated by the “Michigan Cares for Tourism” program. Until now, there has not been statewide effort to give back to the state and preserve our most historic attractions. Michigan Cares for Tourism is a volunteer-based program that coordinates an annual clean-up event of a Michigan tourism treasure.

Working with the Department of Natural Resources, tourism professionals volunteer their time and backs to help restore state tourism sites. Sponsors provide the resources needed for restoration efforts. Efforts are 100 percent volunteer with all proceeds solely committed to each clean-up project.

“Michigan Cares for Tourism” takes volunteerism one step further. All volunteers pay an additional $50 for the opportunity to work to improve state parks and other vacation venues. These funds defray event costs and educate colleagues about the wonderful attractions in Michigan.

In the past seven months, 450 tourism industry volunteers have contributed in excess of $93,000 in labor and materials to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and their efforts to restore Belle Isle Park and Mill Lake Park in the Waterloo Recreation Area.

On May 9, 422 tourism industry volunteers stepped up for Belle Isle Park. Volunteers worked on nine separate projects including gutting, cleaning and painting of the police station, moving tons of scrap materials, and general landscape and park improvements.

Just seven months ago, over 100 Michigan Cares for Tourism volunteers descended on Mill Lake Park. Hard-working volunteers removed broken windows, gutted, and cleaned all 13 of the park’s cabins and mess hall.

Michigan’s resurgent tourism industry has added almost 60,000 jobs thanks to public support of Pure Michigan. That campaign is motivating millions of national and international visitors to fly to Detroit to begin their leisure travel throughout the state.

As the birthplace of Motown, the home of the Tigers, Greektown and events like the Woodward Dream Cruise, “The D” is where positive first impressions are made. That’s what made the May 9 cleanup of Belle Isle Park so important and so gratifying.

DNR Director of Parks and Recreation Ron Olson said it best. “Michigan Cares for Tourism accomplished great things in the restoration of Mill Lake Park and again in early May at Belle Isle Park. Those volunteers jump-started efforts to restore our great parks, expanded vacation opportunities for visitors and saved Michigan taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars.”

In less than one year, hundreds of volunteers worked together to make good things happen. Through superior organization, fundraising and marketing of this event, Professor Janes and the Hospitality and Tourism Department of Grand Valley State University (GVSU) made that all possible.

Michigan’s lodging and tourism industry is hiring. And you may be surprised to know that there are 30 different colleges and universities in Michigan that offer two- and four-year degree programs in hotel, hospitality and tourism management.

All of these are truly great institutions, but thanks to taking Michigan Cares for Tourism from idea to full bloom in just over a year, GVSU should be at, or near the top of anyone’s list of potential college choices. They’ve proven the value of public-private partnerships and what always happens when good people work together.

Steve Yencich, president and CEO, Michigan Lodging and Tourism Association