'Pure Michigan' campaign will expand to China, Toronto

Lauren Abdel-Razzaq
The Detroit News
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Grand Rapids — The state's "Pure Michigan" campaign saw a record year last year for return on investment and is poised to expand, particularly with campaigns geared toward Toronto and China.

That's according to David West, vice president of travel for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. In his role as chief of travel Michigan, he's responsible for taking the popular and successful Pure Michigan campaign into its second decade.

Last year, the campaign spent $12.4 million in advertising, motivating 4.1 million trips to the state and generating $6.87 for each dollar spent.

"The positive effects are beginning to take over. We are becoming more popular," West said Tuesday during a presentation at the Pure Michigan Governor's Conference on Tourism. "It's a game changer."

As the economy recovers, the tourism industry in Michigan appears to be leading the way.

Michigan hosted 113.4 million visitors in 2014, with Canadian business accounting for 2.7 million of those visits, an all-time high. Those visitors, both domestic and international, spent $22.8 billion at Michigan businesses, according to the report.

That influx of travelers directly supported 214,333 jobs in the state, which jumps to 320,000 jobs when including indirect spending, West said in his report.

Tourism employment growth outpaced overall state employment growth by more than half a percent in 2014 and has outperformed the state economy for four straight years, he said.

"We are leading the economy, not following the economy," said West.

Next year marks the 10th anniversary of the Pure Michigan campaign and West said the travel bureau is ready to add to its existing lineup of more than 50 commercials and ads featuring locations and themes around the state. The Michigan.org website will get a makeover and translations into other languages.

Governor Rick Snyder allotted $30 million in his 2016 budget for the Pure Michigan campaign, $1 million more than the previous year.

He also said there will be special interest in attracting Canadians and Chinese visitors.

"Chinese tourism is exploding and we as an industry want to make sure we are ahead of the curve," said West. "It's too ripe an apple to not go after it".

Part of this, he said, will be branding at Detroit Metropolitan Airport and partnering with airlines.

"Eighty percent of (international) travelers going through Detroit Metro go on to other destinations," said West. "We want to capture the attention of those who could come back."

Also, for the first time this year, the Pure Michigan campaign will come to Toronto, even though the strength of the U.S. dollar could be off-putting for some travelers.

"It's a disincentive for Canadians to come," said West. "That being said, the proximity, the cheap gas and the affordability, we're still very appealing."

The Pure Michigan campaign has also found plenty of success on social media. In fact, West said, #PureMichigan is the world's number on Instagram travel brand hashtag with 1.267 million posts, or about 300-400 photos uploaded and tagged every day.


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