TRAVEL-UST-MICH-TOURISM-2-DE

The National Travel and Tourism Week gets kicked off with a press conference that featured Michigan Retailers' Buy Nearby Guy mascot next to a large aerial photo of Lake of the Clouds in Michigan's Porcupine Mountains on Monday May, 3, 2021 at the pavilion site on the campus of Greenfield Village in Dearborn. The press conference was to promote travel in Michigan now that more people are becoming vaccinated from COVID-19. (Mandi Wright/Detroit Free Press/TNS)

DETROIT – As Michigan’s tourism industry reels from more than a year of closing shop, tourism officials said they’re ready to turn the corner this summer, starting with National Travel and Tourism Week.

Since 1983, the U.S. dedicates the first full week of May to celebrating the industry. This year, from May 2-8, Michigan businesses and tourism leaders are sharing their plans for an industry-wide recovery.

Vaccinations will play a huge role in the tourism industry’s bounce back, according to Dave Lorenz, vice president of Travel Michigan.

As of May 7, 54% of Michiganders 16 and up received their first dose.

Vaccination cards, however, will be a company-by-company decision, Lorenz said. Vaccine passports will mostly be used for certain modes of travel, such as flying.

Identification cards such as passports and driver’s licenses tell people that “you’ve been identified as a safe traveler. This is the same thing," Lorenz said.

But with political disputes over this, Lorenz said it’s better to focus on reaching that herd immunity number — 70% — as soon as possible, at which point vaccination cards won’t play as big of a role.

Another barrier to the industry’s comeback, Lorenz said, is labor shortages.

“It’s already an issue, and we’re not even at full capacity,” Lorenz said, as restaurants and resorts won’t be able to open for as many hours, or for as many people.

Vaccines, again, come into play, Lorenz said. As more people get their shots, more people can feel safer returning to work.

Jennifer Rook, vice president of communications and marketing at Michigan Retailer's Association, said if Michiganders switched 10% of their purchases from outside retailers to local shops, Michigan's economy would earn more than $1.2 billion.

"Our merchants need your help more than ever before," Rook said.

In an effort to get people excited about local traveling, the Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau is launching Detroit Experience Packages this week.

From a Detroit Dog City package that includes an hotel stay and some VIP treatment for your dog, to a Bike Local trip with more than 50 miles to explore, residents looking for a local vacation can go to the bureau's website to purchase a package. Day packages provide tours of Detroit, based on interests such as shopping, history or food.

The pandemic has brought one good thing for tourism: virtual scheduling.

Remote learning and working could come to the tourism industry’s benefit, Lorenz said.

In the past, most travel and tourism revenue came from summer months, when kids were off school. Now, people can take vacations at times they didn’t before, Lorenz said, which could help stretch out opportunities for tourism.

Still, Lorenz said he doesn’t expect a full bounce back for the industry until next year, considering the major hit that the industry suffered for 14 months — and counting. But this summer can be a step closer, especially considering how eager people are to get back to traveling.

This week last year, hotels in metro Detroit were 23% occupied. Now, they’re at 58%, which tells Lorenz that people are ready to get out of their homes.

“We’re too eager to get our lives back,” Lorenz said.

Recommended for you