Pure Michigan tourism campaign gets new lease on life

Pure Michigan is pure lucky.

Pure Michigan money paid for regional winter advertising this month and will pay for a spring-summer nationwide cable-TV ad campaign. Forbes magazine named Pure Michigan one of the top 10 travel advertising campaigns of all time.

Pure Michigan money paid for regional winter advertising this month and will pay for a spring-summer nationwide cable-TV ad campaign. Forbes magazine named Pure Michigan one of the top 10 travel advertising campaigns of all time. / January 2010 photo from McCann-Erickson

Buoyed by a new governor’s confidence and a stream of cash from a lame-duck state Legislature, the critically acclaimed state tourism ad campaign that was left for dead last fall has popped back to life.

Michigan’s tourism businesses are relieved.

“Half the battle is getting people to know what Michigan has got — and then giving them a reason to come,” said Mike McGuire, owner and general manager of McGuire’s Resort in Cadillac. With Pure Michigan ads back on the air, “I am hearing buzz about it,” he said. “People are recognizing it.”

In October, the Legislature slashed Travel Michigan’s budget to just $5.1 million for fiscal 2011. But lawmakers came back in December and added $10 million more to save the ads.

That money funded $1.5 million in regional winter advertising this month. It will pay for a spring-summer nationwide cable-TV ad campaign that starts March 14.

In his State of the State address Jan. 19, Michigan’s new Gov. Rick Snyder prominently advocated permanent Pure Michigan funding of $25 million a year starting in October for fiscal year 2012.

If the new Legislature goes along, “that will give us the ability to plan in a business-like way and not be on this constant roller coaster,” said George Zimmermann, vice president of Travel Michigan.

Still, Jack Matthias, owner of Thunder Bay Resort in Hillman, is concerned Pure Michigan can’t save state tourism by itself.

“We are barely hanging on,” he said. “I feel like things bottomed out last year, but for us, it’s about the same this year.” Thunder Bay Resort offers golf packages in summer and elk sleigh ride packages in winter.

He hopes Snyder has the influence to propel the Legislature to pass permanent tourism advertisement funding. But that won’t fix everything, he said.

“On the other side of the issue is the magnitude of the problem, and how many jobs that have been lost and how much money it would take to replace them. In that light, $25 million is not enough,” he said. “I think we’ve lost 35,000 tourist jobs in the last four years out of 200,000.”

In 2009, Forbes magazine named Pure Michigan one of the top 10 travel advertising campaigns of all time, along with Las Vegas: What Happens Here Stays Here and Virginia is for Lovers.

For Julie Sprenger, Pure Michigan ads have made a huge difference at her inn, Laurium Manor, near Houghton.

“I ran my numbers last fall at the end of the season, and it was very obvious that we got a lot more people from Illinois, Wisconsin and Ohio. The license plates of our guests were even from New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia. So I asked them, and yes, they all saw the Pure Michigan campaign. I think it’s fantastic.”