Launching the season

Marie Havenga • Jul 21, 2015 at 2:32 PM

By the time we roll into Labor Day, $33 million will have changed hands — going from the pockets of tourists toward the profits of local businesses.

The estimated economic impact of Grand Haven-area tourism last year was $59.2 million, with $32.9 million of that flowing between Memorial and Labor days, according to Marci Cisneros, executive director of the Grand Haven Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Omnipresent attractions draw tourists in — the boardwalk, pier, beach, sunsets, downtown shopping and dining — but so do other seasonal splendors that launch this weekend. They include narrated Harbor Trolley rides, nightly performances of the Musical Fountain, expanded store and restaurant hours, boat and beach gear rentals, and mini-golf at Chinook Pier.

“Memorial Day weekend is nationally recognized as the kickoff to summer,” Cisneros said. “For our area, we start to see an increase in visitor traffic starting with the Great Lakes Kite Festival (last weekend). Visitorship continues to build and ultimately gets into full swing by mid to late June. Once school-age children break for summer, families start making the best of their vacations.”

And the Grand Haven area is a popular spot for those vacations, consistently ranking in the Top 10 destinations in Michigan.

“We have strong name recognition, a charming small-town feel (and) we are located on the beautiful beaches of Lake Michigan,” Cisneros said. “We have a great mix of retail and restaurant, diversity of recreational experiences, and loads of public access points to our natural resources.”

This draw means big business for area entrepreneurs. Those tourists and locals who stroll the boardwalk stop to buy ice cream, magazines and sunscreen. And they have to eat, put gas in their cars, buy souvenirs and sometimes spend the night.

“This is a big weekend,” said Diane Larkin, executive director of the Grand Haven Main Street Downtown Development Authority. “(The city has) a population of a little over 10,000 in the winter. Our population for the Tri-Cities probably bumps to 50,000 over the summer months.”

This season opener may have an added festive flourish following a winter that wore out its welcome.

To read the whole story, see Saturday’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.

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