Pure Investment: Ad campaign pays off for Michigan

Pure Michigan ads deliver increased tourist dollars and revenue for the state

Images of sparkling blue lakes, seas of sand and golden leaves dotting rolling hillsides will continue to lure tourists to Michigan as well as encourage residents to jump in the car and explore their own state — if the Legislature approves more funding for the Pure Michigan tourism campaign. And it should.

In his first State of the State address, Gov. Rick Snyder asked the Legislature to allocate $25 million annually to the successful national and regional effort. Even in the face of a significant budget deficit, Snyder believes Pure Michigan is a good investment that brings in more than $2 in tax revenue for each dollar spent. Not a bad ratio.

Michigan’s tourism industry is worth investing in, as it yields an estimated $15 billion annually, generating around $850 million in state taxes.

If the Legislature does provide the funding, the additional money will make life much easier to sustain the campaign. George Zimmermann, vice president of Travel Michigan, a business unit of the Michigan Economic Development Corp., says he’s thrilled with the governor’s pledge of support and looks forward to ending what has been a “budget rollercoaster” the past two years. The period of inconsistent, insufficient funding has left the tourism campaign with its hands tied.

Funding for the campaign has plummeted since 2009. The Pure Michigan budget for the 2011 fiscal year was reduced to $5.4 million, which had declined from $17 million in 2010 and $28 million in 2009. Last month, the ad campaign was pretty much over until the Legislature came through with a $10 million lifeline in its lame duck session.

With $25 million up front, Zimmerman says his staff will be able to plan the best advertising campaign possible — which includes landing ideal cable network spots — and highlight all four seasons in the state. Planning ahead will also provide better rates.

Pure Michigan boasts a proven track record of success and has captured the attention of many industry experts. Since it began in 2006, the campaign has won numerous awards, including making Forbes 2009 list of the top 10 tourism promotion campaigns.

And the ad campaign is more than just pretty images. According to a four-year study of Pure Michigan, $32 million in out-of-state summer advertising from 2006 to 2009 attracted 5 million new visitors who spent $1.3 billion. This produced $93 million for the state, largely through sales taxes.

A Detroit News poll earlier in the month found that many voters in Michigan oppose increased funding for Pure Michigan. Fifty-eight percent said no and 34 percent said yes. It’s not too surprising that voters feel this way, given the weightier concerns facing the state. But the positive results merit the investment in promoting one of the state’s key industries.

Advertising draws tourists, and tourism creates jobs. Snyder, whose priority is job creation, is wise to continue the Pure Michigan spending.