News Story

Tourism Industry Declined to Support Pure Michigan

Although the state doesn't have the money to continue the Pure Michigan advertising campaign, one Mackinac Center For Public Policy expert argues it can continue if the private tourism industry pays for it.

The state's Pure Michigan advertising campaign was cancelled, according to the Detroit News, as the state doesn't have the money for it this fall. The ads featured the voice of actor Tim Allen and touted the attractive many of the outdoor recreational activities of the state.

Michael LaFaive, director of the Mackinac Center's Morey Fiscal Policy Initiative, has argued that the Pure Michigan campaign should be paid for by the people it directly benefits — the tourism industry.

A 2010 study reported that the state got a $2.23 rate of return on every $1 it invested in tourism advertising. 

Yet, despite this supposed rate of return, the tourism industry didn't believe advertising was something it wanted to pay for. LaFaive pointed to a recent tourism industry report titled "Michigan Tourism Strategic Plan" that stated:

There is absolutely no industry support for a broad-based industry self-assessment approach to generate sufficient monies to fund Travel Michigan. Last year, TICOM (Tourism Industry Coalition of Michigan) created a special task force to explore such an approach. Without exception, representatives from a variety of tourism industry segments indicated their members and/or Boards would strongly oppose such an approach.

"In other words, tourism industry members determined that this type of promotion does not provide a worthy return on investment if they have to pay for it," LaFaive wrote in a recent blog. "They are happy, however, to fund this campaign by depriving other taxpayers of their own precious resources."

George Zimmerman, vice president of Travel Michigan, said that there is no large multi-million dollar tourism attraction in Michigan like Disney World. He said it would take $28 million to $30 million to fully fund Pure Michigan.

"Most of the tourism in the state is small businesses," Zimmerman said. "I don't believe they have the funds to do that."

Steve Yencich, president of the Tourism Industry Coalition of Michigan, didn't return an e-mail or phone message seeking comment.

LaFaive doesn't buy the argument that Michigan tourism doesn't have the clout to pay for the advertising campaign.

"And yet they appear powerful enough to make the state do it for them," LaFaive wrote in an e-mail. "This program is incredibly unfair to those small businesses without the resources to bend the ears of Lansing politicians."

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.