TRAVEL-UST-MICH-TOURISM-2-DE

The National Travel and Tourism Week featured a press conference that included Michigan Retailers’ Buy Nearby Guy mascot next to a large aerial photo of Lake of the Clouds in Michigan’s Porcupine Mountains on May 3, at the pavilion site on the campus of Greenfield Village in Dearborn.

As Michigan’s tourism industry reels from more than a year of closing shop, tourism officials said they’re ready to turn the corner this summer, starting with National Travel and Tourism Week.

Since 1983, the U.S. dedicates the first full week of May to celebrating the industry. This year, from May 2-8, Michigan businesses and tourism leaders shared their plans for an industry-wide recovery.

Vaccinations will play a huge role in the tourism industry’s bounce back, according to Dave Lorenz, vice president of Travel Michigan. As of May 7, 54 percent of Michiganders ages 16 and up received their first dose.

Vaccination cards, however, will be a company-by-company decision, Lorenz said. Vaccine passports will mostly be used for certain modes of travel, such as flying.

Identification cards such as passports and driver’s licenses tell people that “you’ve been identified as a safe traveler. This is the same thing,” Lorenz said.

But with political disputes over this, Lorenz said it’s better to focus on reaching that herd immunity number – 70 percent – as soon as possible, at which point vaccination cards won’t play as big of a role.

Another barrier to the industry’s comeback, Lorenz said, is labor shortages.

“It’s already an issue, and we’re not even at full capacity,” Lorenz said, as restaurants and resorts won’t be able to open for as many hours, or for as many people.

Vaccines, again, come into play, Lorenz said. As more people get their shots, more people can feel safer returning to work.

Jennifer Rook, vice president of communications and marketing at the Michigan Retailers Association, said if Michiganders switched 10 percent of their purchases from outside retailers to local shops, Michigan’s economy would earn more than $1.2 billion.

“Our merchants need your help more than ever before,” Rook said.

The pandemic has brought one good thing for tourism: virtual scheduling.

Remote learning and working could come to the tourism industry’s benefit, Lorenz said.

In the past, most travel and tourism revenue came from summer months, when kids were off school. Now, people can take vacations at times they didn’t before, Lorenz said, which could help stretch out opportunities for tourism.

Still, Lorenz said he doesn’t expect a full bounce back for the industry until next year, considering the major hit that the industry suffered for 14 months – and counting. But this summer can be a step closer, especially considering how eager people are to get back to traveling.

This week last year, hotels in metro Detroit were 23 percent occupied. Now, they’re at 58 percent, which tells Lorenz that people are ready to get out of their homes.

“We’re too eager to get our lives back,” he said.

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