The city, in partnership with Grand Valley State University, has started a study that aims to look at the number of seasonal visitors and the economic impact they have on the community.
“We’re ready to go,” City Manager Pat McGinnis said.
A team of GVSU experts and four city partners, combined with GVSU students and city interns, will participate in the research.
The GVSU team includes: Patty Janes, associate professor, Hospitality & Tourism Management, College of Community and Public Service; Paul Stephenson, department chairman and professor of statistics, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences; Christian Glupker, professor of economics, Seidman College of Business; Paul Isley, associate dean of undergraduate programs, Seidman College of Business; Ruth Stegeman, director for the Office for Community Engagement; Robert Smart, associate provost for research administration; and Linda Chamberlain, director of technology commercialization.
Partnering with the city are the local Chamber of Commerce, Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ Parks & Recreation Division, Grand Haven Main Street Downtown Development Authority, and the Grand Haven Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. The five groups have pledged to share the cost of the study, contributing $3,686 each.
“Each group is looking for something a little bit different,” McGinnis said.
McGinnis said the data will be used in a variety of ways — everything from grant applications to initiatives that attract national attention and elevate private investment in the community.
“When we go out and compete for attention ... we can go out with an absolute, bonafide count of all the people that we have here,” he explained.
To find this data, researchers will count visitors walking past them on select dates, and they will also have cards available for people to fill out to allow further information to be obtained.
The team will also take advantage of some high-tech methods, including cellphone call volume, electronic sensors that can detect groups of people as they walk past, and drones flying over crowds that deliver high-definition photographs.
“We’re working on getting the OK with the FAA to use a drone to get some video so they can verify figures for their counts,” McGinnis said.
City officials hope that they’ll have some information to report back at the end of the year.
“It will be in December when we get the final feedback,” McGinnis said.