CADILLAC — We are approaching a bittersweet moment in the next few days.
For many, especially students, summer was over when they stepped foot back into the classroom. For those who play sports, summer’s end might have happened when fall sports practices started.
The official end of summer occurs Sunday as Monday marks the autumnal equinox or in layman’s terms the start of fall. It is bittersweet because summer is over but at the same time fall and all the things it brings are about to begin. Luckily Mother Nature is giving summer’s final weekend a boost as the region has seen some warmer temperatures and sunshine.
Although summer is ending on a warm note, just a few months ago it seemed like it was never going to start. The snow may have been gone, but the sun and warmth associated with late spring and early summer were nowhere to be seen. Instead, there were dreary skies and rain. A lot of rain.
Farmers across the state will be the first to tell you it was too much. In June, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer sent a letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue requesting a USDA Secretarial Disaster Designation for the State of Michigan.
The letter was sent because Michigan was in the midst of the third wettest year in state history, with 37.9 inches of rain between May 1, 2018, and April 30, 2019. This weather delayed and prevented farmers from planting their crops as usual, with 64 out of Michigan’s 83 counties requesting disaster designations from the U.S. Department of Agriculture this year.
The impact of the wet spring was widely reported on regarding agriculture, but what about those who work in one of Northern Michigan’s other important revenue generators — tourism? Did the slow start to summer have an impact on tourism? Are there concerns about fall?
Cadillac Area Visitors Bureau Executive Director Joy VanDrie looked at the summer statistics and what the outlook is for fall to see if there was an answer to these questions.
VanDrie said weather does play a huge part in the area’s tourism economy. She said June weather hindered an increase in area visitors by about 10-15% with area hotels reporting revenue under budget or equal to last year. That, however, was predicted.
She also said July and August were equal to or slightly up for most area hotels, while a short timeframe for reservations left area hotels and restaurants short-staffed during unexpected busy weekends.
With that in mind, VanDrie said the visitors bureau is all in on fall in hopes of recouping some of those losses.
“The Cadillac Area Visitors Bureau is again launching a substantial Fall Color Tour marketing campaign this year coupled with four area self-guided Color Tour Routes promoting attractions and foodie stops along each route — this campaign started three years ago and has increased our September-November tourism season substantially,‘ she said.
The visitors bureau also is investing resources to promote the area’s fall golfing opportunities, according to VanDrie. She said the CAVB is investing in a digital marketing campaign for fall golf that targets mid-week travelers to enjoy the area and golf multiple courses over a few days via play/stay packages.
Due to a dip in leisure tourism in the area, VanDrie said the group sales effort was launched last fall to focus on group tourism. That included the hiring of Kathy Morin who focuses on business to business marketing of meeting planners who work for statewide organizations, corporations, and government entities.
“Our marketing efforts are predicted to hold revenue to last year and possibly offer an increase unless Mother Nature pulls a fast one and the colors come and go quickly,‘ she said.