Tourism in Northern Michigan for 2010—A MyNorth Media Whitepaper

There are two parts to our discussion on tourism in Northern Michigan in 2010. First we give you the shortcut to MyNorth Media insight. Secondly, we share all the intel we collected from pundits across the industry.

The Action—How to Thrive in Tourism in Northern Michigan in 2010

After nearly 30 years in the business of covering the best of life Up North, MyNorth Media knows how to tell your story and present it in an inspiring climate where Northern Michigan’s businesses can thrive. We have built a targeted audience of people predisposed to Northern Michigan. With all our media combined, we now reach an audience of 800,000.

And you can leverage our team’s experience for your company. Following is a portion of the insight that our account executives have put together to aid clients in developing robust, successful marketing plans. To get a free review of your specific marketing challenges, please email Jan Chapman, Advertising Director or call (231) 941-6538.

What sorts of promotions will work this year?

In a survey that About.com did, two thirds of consumers report that they are looking for discount promotions in advertising for holiday shopping. Second to that were all-inclusive packages. To some degree this may be the same answer—packages are often discounted. And discounts are often contained in packages.

In reviewing aggregate response rates to ads in Getting Up North, a monthly e-newsletter, MyNorth Media saw increased click-throughs on text ads touting packages. Consumers recognized good deals and were interested in the details.

Some luxury brands may struggle to protect their brand value during these years of discount travel. When the economy rebounds, will consumers still return to pre-recession pricing for luxury brands?

As an industry projecting a small increase in sales, are there weeks that would sell out without offering discounts? Are there ways to adjust packages to capture consumer attention in advertising and still protect those lucrative high-season weeks?

With consumers indicating that they are returning to longer vacations, you may be able to protect your rates by offering additional nights at reduced rates or free. When the economy rebounds in subsequent years, your customers will recognize the normal rates, and will understand that a sold-out hotel means you can’t give additional nights for free anymore.

In developing those packages, marketers may need to consider cutting services. Careful attention to customer wants should direct marketers on what services can be cut (turn down service) and which ones provide value to a package (gourmet coffee free each morning in the lobby). Look at designing packages to meet customer preferences and changing those packages as often as the season might allow. For example:

  • A Valentine’s Day package may come with an expectation of chocolates. That same romance package in early summer may not need the extra chocolates.
  • Older couples may prefer dining arrangements or discounts, whereas younger couples may want a reduced room rate.
  • A girls’ weekend in the winter might need more spa treatments to be attractive. Those additional services may not be necessary in fall or later in the spring when wineries or spring hikes might be on the agenda.

How can I make a lasting impression?

Magazine ads have the staying power in your marketing mix. Our research shows that Traverse Magazine subscribers largely turn to magazines for ideas on:

  • Recreation 69%
  • Travel 69%
  • Shopping 81%
  • Gifts 81%
  • Home 85%

Because of the high quality photography, print publications can showcase the richness of Northern Michigan. Festivals, hotel vistas, and restaurants can capture a reader’s imagination with a single high-quality photo. Magazines are entertainment to be savored, enjoyed and returned to again and again.

To continue reaching your target audience to make that lasting impression:

  • Add an enriched interactive campaign that follows up the magazine experience with video. Video postcards or Walk & Talk videos on MyNorth.com, for example, stay up all year.
  • Reinforce it with enewsletter text ads linking to current packages and services or landing pages with your videos.
  • Link to your video from your website, your enewsletter text ads and online advertising.
  • Reference the video in print ads to build an engaging experience.

How do I turn new customers into repeat customers?

One technique is skillfully used by hairdressers who encourage clients to book the next appointment before they’ve paid for the current one. Train your staff to ask at the end of the initial reservation, “Will you be coming up later in the summer or for the fall color tour?” And then again when your guests pay the bill. (This works for restaurants too!) And follow up with email, touting your available weeks, special events or photos of your gorgeous vistas or product lines.

If you’re a regular advertiser in one of our email newsletters, encourage your customers to subscribe free at MyNorth.com/newsletter. Then they receive a reminder every month of how great it is to visit your business.

What can I do right now on MyNorth.com for free?

Participating in the MyNorth.com Community is a great way to engage people. Right now, there are discussions asking for help planning summer vacation with an 8-year-old, foods all Northerners must eat before they die and rainy day ideas. For a list of tips on how to promote your organization in the MyNorth Community, click and email us.

Once people visit, they become customers. How can I get them here when they are still “at home”?

Here’s one where MyNorth Video Postcards or Walk & Talk Videos are the greatest deal going. In a Video Postcard, you can give your prospects a sense of what you provide complete with mood-setting music. Add your own commentary for just a little more in our Walk & Talk Videos.

Email the video link to your prospects, put it on your website, upload it to YouTube and include it in online ads. Plus, we link to Video Postcards in our “Take a Video Vacation” segments of our email newsletters (scroll down to the Sleeping Bear Video Vacation sample). If you’re interested in a Video, click to let us know and we’ll get back with you.

What’s a good way to let people know we’re open for the season? Or that we have a special event?

We have email newsletters going out nearly every week on several topics. These e-newsletters are great ways to target your messages with surrounding editorial and get to 10,000+ inboxes quickly (check out Andante’s text ad in a summer issue of Food & Wine Up North). To really make a splash, we can send an email blast with just your message to our entire database. These email blasts are limited and work best if you include an exclusive offer. 

I know I should be online, what are some low cost methods of having a web presence?

  • Invest your time in a page in the community where you can post news about your business in the text box of your page. (email me for Tips on Promoting Your Business on MyNorth.com’s Community)
  • Put products in the MyNorth.com Store. MyNorth.com can act as your internet retailer and we have Product Spotlight packages that include promotion in our email newsletters.
  • Have the MyNorth Media team put together a web landing page for you. You can provide visitors the basics about your products or services, contact information and photos with the look and feel of your corporate personality, cost effectively.
  • Or select a custom website design developed by our MyNorth Media Web Team and have more flexibility to expound on the details of your products and services and add other functions.
  • Or share your vision with us and we’ll put together a proposal for your dream online marketing and website plan.

The Background—Here’s What Inspired Our Actionable Advice.

Modest Recovery Over Last Year Cautiously Projected.

In a New York Times article on holiday travel, many pundits refrained from making a forecast even for the short term holiday season, shying away from longer term forecasts and suggesting that they didn’t want to promise increases that could be dashed by volatile fuel prices or other unseen economic comeuppances. A few experts pointed to recent increases expecting a modest tourism recovery in 2010. Of special interest to Northern Michigan, if you’re focusing on travel other than air travel, there in fact seem to be some bright spots.
(Note: Analysts have yet to evaluate the effects of the recent airline bomb attempt in Detroit on Christmas. Not only are passengers concerned about flight safety, but the additional, unexpected security demands may be discouraging even more travelers from flying, especially abroad.)

Bright Spots—Driving, Length of Stay

Ypartnership market tracking studies confirm that Americans still view vacations as a birthright and the majority of adults in the U.S. (53%) are planning at least one overnight leisure trip between now and April of 2010. The survey results point to a stable demand for leisure travel services, with suppliers battling for market share.

In September, PhoCusWright and Compete both reported that internet traffic and conversion rates were up in most travel categories in early spring, saying, “Consumers are certainly spending less, but they are not giving up travel, nor are they turning away from the websites that offer them the selection and convenience they value,” said Carroll Rheem, director research at PhoCusWright.

A Bright Spot: Fewer consumers are considering cutting the length of vacations as a cost cutting measure

With the job loss reports slowing and discussions of a recovery, consumer demand for a break after a challenging year may prompt more spring and summer travel after a conservative Christmas.

The Ypartnership October 2009 survey also revealed that many leisure travelers are now more inclined to stay in less expensive hotels, spend less overall, drive rather than fly, and look for deals on the internet than they were the same time one year ago. Travelers’ sentiment has changed with regard to the length of their trips, which is an encouraging sign. Only half now say they are planning to "stay fewer nights" (down from two-thirds a year ago).

Consumers Are Now More Likely To:        October 2008        October 2009
Stay at less expensive hotels —                          81%                     85%
Overall, spend less —                                        75%                    80%
Stay more with friends and family —                   69%                     69%
Drive rather than fly —                                      60%                     66%
Look for deals on the Internet —                        58%                      61%Stay fewer nights —                                          67%                      50%

Source: Ypartnership/U.S. Travel Association, October 2009 travelhorizons(TM)

For Lodging:  Key is Attracting Customers to Gain Market Share

The hotel industry faces a daunting problem in attracting business. The industry’s historical hotel occupancy average is 63 percent. Scott Berman, hospitality practice leader for PricewaterhouseCoopers, said he expects occupancy levels to edge up to 55.8 percent in 2010, from 55.2 percent for 2009.

Berman said his conversations with hotel executives indicated that reservations had been picking up in the last two months, an encouraging sign, while rates are expected to remain a challenge.

One airline’s, hotel’s or destination’s gain will be another’s loss, as overall demand is not expected to grow appreciably. Perceived "value" will remain king, and leisure travel service marketers will have to demonstrate even greater creativity with respect to their pricing and promotional strategies in order to attract their fair share. So what do consumers want in a promotional package? Emarketer’s chart points to the About.com study on holiday shopping, noting that discounts still rule—but all inclusive packages are appealing to nearly half the respondents.

The results of the survey also suggest that both business and leisure travelers will sharpen their travel planning and purchasing skills further to ensure they don’t overpay. Consumers are using internet tools that allow widespread cost comparisons and alert consumers to deals and discounts; that practice will certainly place additional pressure on suppliers’ margins.

What does all this data mean for Northern Michigan’s Tourism Industry?

Northern Michigan is an attractive area for consumers hoping to drive to their vacations. Lots of festivals, natural beauty and a cornucopia of great local food and wine make Northern Michigan a prime destination to sate all the consumer travel needs. 

Our competition? Every downtown in the Midwest will be wooing residents to stay home. The Staycation is perhaps our most challenging enemy because it is fueled by inertia—a body at rest tends to stay at rest. There are lots of reasons for people to stay home. Northern Michigan’s challenge will be to get them here. And indeed we’ll be competing with other Michigan cities like Detroit, Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor. And Chicago, Cleveland, St. Louis and Cincinnati will all be trying to keep people home.

Neighboring states are ramping up their tourism efforts; here are projected budgets for 2010 (from Explore Minnesota website): State         Tourism budget     Rank
Illinois        $50.4 million           4
Missouri      $20.7 million         12
Wisconsin   $15.1 million         20Michigan     $12.0 million         25

Notes & References:

MyNorth Media would like to thank the wonderful media and resources that created, captured and reported information leading to the development of this article:  New York Times, About.com, eMarketer, PhoCusWrite, Compete, YPartnership, US Travel Association, TravelHorizons, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Explore Minnesota and of course our esteemed colleagues, the MyNorth Media account executives. 

One of Many Marketing Resources for Northern Michigan’s Businesses from MyNorth Media.

You know us as Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine and MyNorth.com. We’re the company that’s weathered nearly 30 years Up North, helping you reach an audience of more than 800,000 customers—tourists, residents and snowbirds, alike. And now you can put our team to work for you to develop:  

  • Valuable Media Options (Print, Video & Web)
  • Affordable Custom Website Design & Development
  • High Definition Video
  • Custom Publishing
  • Print & Online Ad Production
  • Email Marketing
  • And More …

MyNorth Media has the expertise to tell your story with the same grace and respectability that has fueled our success for 30 years. We make it easy for you to succeed.

For a free marketing review, call or email Jan Chapman, Advertising Director (231) 941-6538

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