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After a dismal Michigan tourism year in 2005, travel experts predict a slight rebound in 2006, according to a report in the Detroit News.
Donald F. Holecek, director of Michigan State University’s travel, tourism and recreation resource center, have predicted that state travel volume will grow up to 2% this year, buoying the state’s second-largest industry. Last year, tourism fell 2%.
The fact that more people will be traveling in Michigan is a positive in light of the sluggish state economy and high unemployment numbers.
“This suggests to us that the tourism industry is fairly resilient,” said Holecek, who presented a 71-page industry report at the two-day Michigan Lodging and Tourism Conference at Soaring Eagle Casino in Mount Pleasant. “If you can take higher gas prices, automobile layoffs and other bad economic news and still show some tourism growth, that’s a pretty good performance.”
While Holecek predicted modest growth, he was more optimistic on the money tourists will spend. Travel spending will jump 4% to 5%, he said, as travel prices climb 5% to 6% in 2006. Most of that increase can be attributed to hikes in lodging and food prices. In 2004, tourists spent $17.5 billion in Michigan, helping to employ 210,000 people.
But even the smaller growth rate is welcome news.
Mary McGuire Slevin, executive director of the Mackinaw Island Tourism Bureau, said that summer hotel bookings are running ahead of those a year ago.
“It looks now like Michigan residents are traveling once again in their own backyard,” said Slevin. “People seem to be traveling closer to home.”
Nancy Cain, a spokeswoman for AAA Michigan, said it would be good news if tourism gets back into the growth mode. She said that travel agents from various AAA branches have indicated more members now are talking about summer vacation trips than a year ago.
She said this could be in part because of the state’s poor economy and tight family budgets. She suspects people are shopping early for bargains. “We’re seeing signs of a rebound,” she said.