The Michigan tourism industry is expected to decline by 3 percent to 4 percent this year, according

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The Michigan tourism industry is expected to decline by 3 percent to 4 percent this year, according to a forecast presented by MSU scientists at the Driving Tourism 2009 Conference in Detroit.

After a review of last year’s economic, transportation and weather conditions and a summary of 2008 Michigan tourism activity, MSU tourism analyst Don Holecek gave his projections for 2009. His projections on tourism volume, prices and spending are based on discussions with a dozen of the state’s industry experts.

“We’re looking at a decline of 3 to 4 percent in travel volume and spending,” Holecek said. “But compensating for that will be a decline in travel prices of a percent or two. If gas prices stay down in the $2 range that they’re at now, we could see a 4 to 5 percent decline in prices, which will make Michigan’s travel product even more affordable.”

With Michigan’s economy already in recession in 2008 and gasoline prices at historically high levels, the tourism industry obviously faced major challenges last year, said Sarah Nicholls, MAES community, agriculture, recreation and resource studies scientist.

“Data indicate that the industry did indeed struggle last year, registering a modest decline in tourist numbers, but tourist spending held up better than might be expected in such a difficult market environment,” she said.

The “Pure Michigan” advertising campaign, generally favorable weather, and high quality and modestly priced Michigan travel products played roles in offsetting the negative economy in 2008.

“This year will be an even more challenging year for Michigan’s tourism industry because this state, which is typically the source of about 70 percent of our tourists, has slipped even further into recession, and the economies of the other states that we rely on for out-of-state visitors are far weaker than they were last year,” Holecek said.

Holecek said that, once people realize that they need a respite, Michigan tourism industry leaders want them to be aware of all that this state has to offer and the broad range of cost options offering exceptional value.

“Travel involves several factors, with income being only one of them,” he said. “The other important one is time. It may be enforced leisure for many, but people will have more time on their hands than they’ve had in the past. If the industry can tap into that and offer options that are in line with people’s budgets, Michigan tourism could be impacted favorably.”

Nicholls and Holecek presented their conclusions at the “Driving Michigan Tourism Conference” on March 23.

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