Strong summer tourism seen in U.P.

Jordan Beck | Daily Press From left, tourists Duane, Danika, and Christine Keto go for a walk by Little Bay de Noc in Ludington Park Tuesday. In addition to Escanaba’s waterfront, water-heavy attractions such as the Garden Peninsula and Fayette Historic State Park and Palms Book State Park (home of Kitch-iti-kipi, the largest natural freshwater spring in Michigan) brought tourists to the area this summer.

ESCANABA — As Labor Day — which unofficially marks the end of summer — has come and gone, regional tourism authorities shared information on the Upper Peninsula’s 2018 summer tourism season and expectations for the months ahead. According to these authorities, early signs suggest the summer of 2018 was a strong one for tourism in the area.

Upper Peninsula Travel and Recreation Association (UPTRA) Executive Director Tom Nemacheck said UPTRA has not yet finished collecting financial data on summer tourism in the U.P.

“It’s too early to know,” he said. The association expects to be done collecting data related to summer business for lodging, campgrounds, and attractions in the peninsula in early October.

Based on early feedback from area hotels and tourist attractions, Nemacheck is optimistic.

“I’ve heard nothing but good,” he said, noting that — while he is unsure if summer tourism in 2018 will break records for the U.P. — it appears to have been very strong.

Executive Director of the Delta County Chamber of Commerce Vickie Micheau said local marketing efforts helped bring people to the area.

“The summer tourism season in Delta County was a busy one thanks to the efforts of Visit Escanaba that aggressively marketed Delta County as a vacation destination,” she said. According to Vickie Micheau, she has heard from chamber members in the tourism sector that this summer was a strong one.

Visit Escanaba Executive Director Robert Micheau said the area’s high levels of tourism this summer were also the result of a wide variety of events — including those held at the U.P. State Fairgrounds in Escanaba.

“The National Trappers Convention brought thousands of people to the area that would not have otherwise been here so that was big. The U.P. State Fair was also huge for tourism this year as they broke another attendance record bringing tens of thousands to the area,” he said.

In the counties of Delta and Schoolcraft, Nemacheck said bodies of water are responsible for attracting tourists.

“Delta County and Schoolcraft both have being on Lake Michigan,” he said.

Water-heavy attractions which brought tourists to these counties this summer include the Garden Peninsula and Fayette Historic State Park, Escanaba’s waterfront, and Palms Book State Park — home of Kitch-iti-kipi, the largest natural freshwater spring in Michigan.

“That’s one of our more visited state parks,” Nemacheck said of the latter attraction.

One major factor encouraging tourists to visit the U.P. this summer was the state of the national economy.

“Right now, the economy in the country — and in the Midwest, of course — is doing very, very well,” Nemacheck said.

Weather also played an important role in the apparent success of the 2018 summer tourism season in the U.P.

“The weather was spectacular, which never hurts,” Nemacheck said.

Although warm temperatures were seen across the U.P. this summer, Nemacheck said precipitation levels varied in different parts of the peninsula.

“The western U.P. got twice as much rain as the eastern U.P.,” he said. However, tourism remained strong in both halves of the peninsula.

Some areas of the U.P., including the Copper Country, were hit by particularly heavy rainfall and flooding this summer. According to Nemacheck, summer tourism in these areas did not track as well as expected when compared to other parts of the peninsula.

This may have been partially due to widespread discussion of the damage done by this rainfall, which Nemacheck said may have discouraged tourists from visiting affected areas.

“Throughout the summer, they never recovered from some of the bad press from that,” he said.

Nemacheck also spoke about what the fall could bring in terms of tourism for the U.P. He said that what he has heard so far from owners and managers of area hotels is promising.

“Right now, people are telling me that their reservations are looking very good,” he said.

Vickie Micheau said weather conditions will play a crucial role in the area’s fall tourism season.

“We are hoping for pleasant fall weather that will help extend our tourism season. Many of the fall visitors spending time in the area are those that are on color tours or on their way to places like Mackinac Island and want one last vacation before winter sets in,” she said.

In Nemacheck’s opinion, a high level of rainfall would be the one factor that could have a major negative effect on fall tourism in the area this year.

“I would expect, if the weather holds, we’re (going to) have a great fall,” he said.