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Column: Tourism update, Delta County

ESCANABA — It is cliché at this point to say 2020 has been an unusual year. However, as in almost every industry the year was surprising when it comes to tourism in the Upper Peninsula as well. Visit Escanaba is the Destination Marketing Organization for Delta County. As such we promote the area through a variety of channels. We distribute content and advertisements to connect with customers across the Midwest that want to visit this area. Yes, we promote all of Delta County even though we are called Visit Escanaba but that is a discussion for another day. It has to do with a variety of market research and how people find Delta County online, but I digress.

This year started like any other year in tourism but better. Ice fishing was great on the bays and fishermen traveled to hotels, cabins, short term rentals, and even large recreational vehicles parked out on frozen Lake Michigan to stay the night in this community. We even saw new and continued interest in snowmobiling as we had great snow for hitting the trails and the Rapid River Relic Riders hosted their 14th Annual Ride featuring the Antique Snowmobile Club of America. Things were looking great and then we all had to stop traveling.

Tourism marketing was basically stopped. For our organization this meant putting a hold on the millions of digital ads we run every month as well as the original content we create to promote Delta County and stop asking people to visit. It was a very unusual situation to be in to say the least.

While traditional tourism marketing was not taking place, our team still had a variety of projects to work on and stayed busy through the months when tourism and travel was nonexistent. We also tried to provide some relief to people that were spending so many hours in their home by sharing historic pictures and stories of the area as well as some scenic views of the spectacular natural beauty we are surrounded by. The interaction we were seeing on our digital channels was remarkably high as people were spending more time indoors and online.

When the country began to resume some forms of travel and some tourism marketing returned, it was at a much lower level than the plan for 2020 and lower than any other recent year by a significant amount. There were also no events or event marketing during this time as gatherings were prohibited. They even had to cancel the U.P.’s largest event that is hosted right here in Delta County the U.P. State Fair.

The strangeness of 2020 continued when we looked at the number of people visiting our website. Despite significant reduction in promotion and ads that direct customers to our website, our web traffic was actually up over the previous year and as the year has gone on we are seeing even more increases in people looking at information about Delta County on our website over previous years.

We can all think of many reasons why more people are interested in this area, especially during times like these. The natural beauty and open spaces appeal to many and as more people look to practice social distancing, they embrace activities in nature. Delta County is a perfect canvas for anyone to paint their own experience in nature and they can enjoy the time in a small friendly community with people who care about each other and their guests.

Many local businesses had to close, and some may never open again. Business owners that had spent their life building up this community had to forego profits and lay off employees to protect the health of their neighbors. They did it for you and me and our families, and for that we should be grateful.

I am appreciative of our businesses in Delta County and glad that many have gotten through this period thanks to their wisdom and ingenuity. It makes us proud to be Yoopers and grateful to be a part of this community.

The challenges are not over yet but there is a lot of hope. This area is doing a great job and growing. It is obvious in the amount of interest we see from visitors online and in the development that we are seeing in each community. I am happy to think about the reward waiting for everyone on the other side of this challenge and that such wonderful people will be a part of it. Stay Yooper strong and have a lot of hope because this community is very special. Thank you all for making it that way.

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Robert Micheau is executive director of Visit Escanaba

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