The state budgets $33 million to help subsidize the tourism promotion, which airs commercials across the country and around the world.
Although some detractors argue the money would be better spent on fixing roads and other aging infrastructure, Karen Avery, owner of The Pump House and Toasted Pickle in downtown Grand Haven, said she's confident it's money well spent.
“I think it absolutely helps business,” Avery said. “I heard from an acquaintance in Florida just a few weeks ago who saw the ad running in Florida. They weren't even thinking about traveling to Michigan. She called me right away and said, 'It looks so beautiful up there.' It put Michigan on her radar for a vacation.”
Although she doesn't ask customers where they're from, Avery believes the Pure Michigan campaign and other recent recognition from national publications such as “best freshwater beach” help put Grand Haven on the map.
“We have to double our staff for the weekends,” she said. “I don't think it's just me. That very first weekend that it warmed up, some local restaurants ran out of food. I think Grand Haven is getting in the press more and it's really helping downtown businesses.”
Marci Cisneros, executive director of the Grand Haven Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, said promotions have come a long way since the days of “Great Lakes Great Times.” She said she is grateful to the team at Travel Michigan and McCann Detroit for their creative advertising efforts in the past 10 years.
“It has been a worthwhile investment,” Cisneros said.
The Travel Michigan 2015 report estimates that 4.6 million trips were made to Michigan as a result of exposure to the Pure Michigan campaign.
“Out-of-state visitors spent nearly $1.4 billion in communities across the state with a reported return on investment of $7.67 (for each $1 spent on the Pure Michigan campaign), which is up from $6.87 in 2014,” Cisneros said, citing Longwoods International statistics.
Pure Michigan will be featuring Grand Haven on a billboard this year, displaying a beautiful sunset with a person carrying a surfboard across the sand.
“Although measuring the local effects is difficult, by traditional means, we know it is working because it inspires travel,” Cisneros said. “We are excited to be one of the areas featured in their billboard campaign this year.”
The billboards will target various in-state locations as well as Chicago, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo, South Bend, Fort Wayne, Green Bay, Indianapolis and St. Louis.
Tom Tebeau, owner of Hostetter's News Agency in downtown Grand Haven, said he's behind the Pure Michigan campaign 100 percent.
“I don't see any negative to it,” he said. “One of the things I like is that it doesn't only promote Michigan for the summertime. We are not a tourist town. We misidentify ourselves. If you're a tourist town, you have more than four hotels.”
Tebeau said many of the so-called “tourists” in the area are actually summer residents, hailing primarily from St. Louis, Mo., and other Midwestern cities.
“They're part-time residents,” he said. “We insult them by calling them tourists. Without the $15,000 or $18,000 they pay a year in (property) taxes, we couldn't afford the amenities we have. We have to treat them with a little more respect.”
Tebeau called Grand Haven “a summer destination town.” He said many of his customers come from places like Jenison, Allendale and Muskegon.
Tebeau said he thinks the Pure Michigan campaign is bringing in more visitors from southern Ohio, Kentucky and Pennsylvania.
Joy Gaash, president of the local Chamber of Commerce, said the Pure Michigan campaign helped bring the state out of an economic slump when it launched a decade ago.
“When you think back to attitudes and economic conditions in our state at that time, we were at a low point on so many fronts,” she said. “Pure Michigan celebrated how wonderful our community and natural resources are by telling not only the world but residents of our state, as well.”
Gaasch acknowledged those who think the Pure Michigan money would be better spent on roads. She said the campaign indirectly helps with road funds.
“Without marketing our state in a way that creates successful businesses that pay taxes to support government or employ individuals, who also pay taxes, we would not have the dollars that help support tax dollars that go to roads or social programs,” she said.