Experts disagree on seasonal tourism

ESCANABA — Regional tourism authorities’ preliminary expectations for the summer tourism season are mixed this year. While summer tourism may be slightly down from 2016 for the Upper Peninsula as a whole, tourism in Delta County was reportedly strong over the past few months.

Tom Nemacheck, executive director of the Upper Peninsula Travel and Recreation Association (UPTRA), said his association will receive statistics related to summer tourism in a month or two.

“We won’t know for another 30 to 60 days,” he said.

However, based on feedback from tourist attractions and hotels, he believes tourism this summer could end up being a bit weaker than it was in the summer of 2016.

“I think it’s going to be slightly under,” Nemacheck said.

If this does prove to be the case, Nemacheck said it will be primarily due to the weather seen in the area early in the season.

“The cool, wet June brought us to a slow start,” he said.

Things did warm up and dry out later in the summer, which apparently encouraged more tourists to visit the U.P.

“July was possibly as good (as) or slightly under last year,” Nemacheck said.

Tourism in the month of August also got off to a strong start, but the relatively cool temperatures expected for the rest of the month could cut into the number of tourists coming to the area.

“Eighty degrees is kind of a magic number for a lot of people,” Nemacheck said. He noted that temperatures in the region are not forecasted to reach 80 degrees for the next several days.

Nemacheck also said the the school year starting before Labor Day in some Upper Midwestern school districts has had a ­negative impact on U.P. tourism.

“That hurts us a lot,” he said.

In an e-mail interview, Executive Director of the Delta County Chamber of Commerce Vickie Micheau stated that summer tourism in Delta County has been very healthy this year.

“We don’t have our final numbers in yet for actual (financial) impact, but early indications are that Delta County definitely experienced an increase in tourism activity this summer,” she wrote.

She also stated that rainy weather did not have a major impact on tourism in the county.

“Our tourism season was good, even though we had more rain than usual,” Micheau wrote.

According to Micheau, events played an important role in bringing tourism to the area.

“Annual events like the Off-Road Races and U.P. State Fair continue to be popular events that positively affect tourism,” she wrote. She also noted that Gladstone’s Gus Macker basketball tournament, the Wally Byam Caravan Club International Rally, the Symetra Tour, and various fishing and baseball tournaments contributed to summer tourism in the area this year.

Even if the U.P.’s overall summer tourism numbers for 2017 are lower than those seen last year, Nemacheck said fall tourism could counteract the effects the summer’s low numbers.

“We could make it up in September (and) early October,” he said.

He noted that September, in particular, has become a prominent month for tourism in the U.P.

“It’s increased its importance in the last 10-12 years substantially,” Nemacheck said.

Micheau stated that this is true in Delta County, as well.

“The tourism season isn’t quite over yet,” she wrote. She highlighted two events taking place in the area next month — namely, the U.P. Steam and Gas Engine Association’s Annual Labor Day weekend show, which takes place Sept. 1 through 4, and the Great Lakes Logging and Heavy Equipment Expo, which will take place Sept. 7 through 9. Both of these events will be held at the U.P. State Fairgrounds.

According to Nemacheck, the increasing popularity of U.P. tourism in September is due in large part to the large number of baby boomers in the U.S. population.

“It’s the demographics of the country reaching that older group,” Nemacheck said.

Later this autumn, tourists will be visiting the U.P. to see fall colors in the area. Nemacheck said he would like the leaves to change later in October this year, as this would essentially extend the peninsula’s tourism season.

“I guess I’m hoping that we’re going to have a nice, late fall,” he said.