Pure Michigan cancels Fall advertising due to budget cuts

The following news out of Michigan is terrible for that state's tourism industry.

The Pure Michigan campaign, which has won dozens of awards, features Tim Allen's voice narrating spectacular Michigan scenes beckoning visitors to the Great Lakes State. It has been remarkably successful; the 2009 regional campaign alone attracted 1.3 million out-of-state visitors to Michigan last summer, visitors who spent $338 million at Michigan businesses.

But, for the first time since 2005, Pure Michigan will not be making this regional appeal due to the budget axe. Officials said the 2010 national marketing campaign was maintained, but at the expense of the 2010 fall regional campaign.

According to a press release, Travel Michigan has cancelled the 2010 Pure Michigan fall advertising campaign. The Pure Michigan promotion budget for 2010 is $17 million, down 37 percent from $28 million in 2009. To maintain a second year of national cable television advertising for spring/summer, regional advertising was dramatically reduced. This includes all fall advertising in markets like Chicago. This is the first time since 2005 that Michigan tourism will not have a presence with fall advertising. Travel Michigan spent $1.7 million on fall advertising in 2009.

Travel Michigan, a division of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, is the State of Michigan's official agency for the promotion of tourism. Travel Michigan markets the state's tourism industry and provides visitor information services.

"Cancelling the fall campaign was not something we wanted to do, but there was no other choice. It is a major blow to Michigan's tourism-related businesses and will result in the loss of revenue at tourism businesses as well as reduced state tax collections," said George Zimmermann, vice president of Travel Michigan, a business unit of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

"We had difficult decisions to make because (of) the reduced budget. On the advice of our advertising agency, McCann Erickson, we decided maintaining the momentum of the national campaign was the top priority for 2010," Zimmermann added.

Travel Michigan's 2009 Pure Michigan advertising campaign delivered a significant return on investment (ROI), according to a study conducted by Longwoods International, a research firm specializing in tourism advertising return on investment.

According to the study, the first-ever national Pure Michigan advertising campaign motivated 680,000 new trips to Michigan from outside the Great Lakes region. Those visitors spent $250 million at Michigan businesses last summer as a direct result of the Travel Michigan advertising program. In addition, these new out-of-state visitors paid $17.5 million in state taxes while in Michigan, yielding a $2.23 return on investment for the tourism advertising.

In addition, the study also determined the effectiveness of the campaign on the regional level. Longwoods International assessed the impact of the 2009 Pure Michigan summer advertising on the residents of the Chicago, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Dayton, Columbus, St. Louis, Milwaukee, and Ontario, Canada markets. The regional campaign attracted 1.3 million out-of-state visitors to Michigan last summer, visitors who spent $338 million at Michigan businesses. The Pure Michigan campaign was able to improve its regional return on investment from $2.86 since 2004 to $5.34 in 2009.

Michigan's tourism industry is a vital component of the economy. Visitors to the state spend $15.1 billion annually traveling in Michigan, generating $850 million in state taxes and supporting 142,500 jobs for Michigan residents.

I understand the need to cut government spending. And I understand that, especially in the private sector, businesses usually cut their marketing budgets first. When you're bleeding money the way Michigan has been the last several years, every government program, department, agency and project is susceptible to cuts — as they should be.

But I do have a couple of beefs: Why eliminate the fall campaign completely? Why not cut it in half? Or even cut it by 75 percent. I'm sure the television and radio stations will not be happy with that lost revenue, so they would be willing to entertain reduced rates, reduced frequency — anything, just so long as they can get some of that revenue.

Another beef: Where are the other cuts? I sincerely doubt all government spending is reduced to the absolute minimum requirements in all areas. A few years ago Gov. Jennifer Granholm and the state Legislature were deadlocked over passing a balanced budget. Granholm, in a televised speech, insisted she had cut everything to the bare bones. Guess what, her "cuts" were merely to the INCREASES she had in her proposed budget. So, instead of a program receiving an 8-percent increase, she cut it so that it was "only" receiving a 3-percent increase. That's a fact.

I'm sorry to get political in this venue. This blog is meant to enlighten and entertain. But the momentum gained over the last few years with the Pure Michigan campaign will at the very least be slowed to a crawl with this hiatus. Worst case scenario is Pure Michigan will forever lose ground in the competition to attract tourists.

Pure Michigan is one of the few things in Lansing that works, but unfortunately it looks like the rest of Michigan's problems has finally ran it down.
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My family (wife and three kids, sometimes the dog) and I have been RV campers since 2007. We own a 2000 Trail-Lite B22 Bantam hybrid, our tow vehicle is a 2006 Trailblazer LT EXT (5.3 V8 with 3.73 Rear Axle Ratio), and our setup includes the Equalizer sway controller. Looking to upgrade the camper in the near future, but until then we get out 2-3 times a month in season.