Travel bookings are on the rise | Business

DEARBORN — Expect to see fewer people in northern Michigan during the last week of March.

And this summer.

A recent AAA survey shows that more Michigan residents are planning to travel for the upcoming spring break and later this year.

About 28 percent of Michigan residents are planning a spring break vacation, according to AAA — The Auto Club Group. This is slightly more than the 24% who traveled in 2022 for the holiday at the end of March.

For most high schools and Northwestern Michigan College, students will be out starting March 27 and will return to class when the calendar turns to April.

Travel bookings through the end of 2023 are also on the rise, according to the survey. About 79% of Michiganders plan to travel this year, a significant increase from 62% in 2022.

The 2023 rebuild was a big part of Traverse City Tourism’s annual conference March 9 at the Great Wolf Lodge.

“I think we’re very strong on the other side,” said Traverse City Tourism Board Chairman Matthew Bryant, general manager of the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa, shortly after calling the meeting.

Traverse City Tourism President/CEO Trevor Tkach said while activity recovers and approaches pre-pandemic levels, it will take a lot of effort. Several times during the March 9 meeting, Tkach spoke about the importance of partnerships.

“We work hard every day to take full advantage of the resources, the assets that our community has,” Tkach said before the start of the annual meeting.

The region attracted 6.9 million visitors to the area in 2021. These visitors spent $913 million in 2021, generated $1.3 billion in annual economic impact and created more than 8,500 jobs.

While lodging and other hospitality sectors are a huge part of the region’s tourism focus, a partnership with Cherry Capital Airport could be of great importance.

Cherry Capital Airport Director Kevin Klein said TC Tourism/TVC’s $2.6 million partnership investment since 2012 has generated more than $1 billion in revenue for the airline and more than 4.4 million passengers.

“Bringing (visitors) into the city is what it’s all about,” Klein said at last week’s meeting about the 75 percent increase in ridership since 2012.

“Also, the revenue just takes off.”

Cherry Capital had three airlines (American, Delta and United) and served five cities (Chicago, Denver, Detroit, New York’s LaGuardia and Minneapolis) in 2011, Klein said.

Today, Cherry Capital has added Allegiant and Sun Country and serves 17 cities.

Although Klein said June through August is still the airport’s busiest — when Traverse City’s seasonal population swells to nearly 100,000 — he showed a slide at last week’s presentation that showed more activity “spread to shoulder seasons” outside of summer.

It all starts with spring break, and AAA’s research backs it up.

“AAA is anticipating one of the busiest spring break travel seasons in years,” Debbie Haas, vice president of Travel for AAA – The Auto Club Group, said in the release. “Previous spring travel seasons have been affected by COVID-19. However, Americans are largely more confident about traveling again and AAA is seeing very strong bookings for beach destinations, cruises and attractions.”

As with most spring break destinations, Michiganders are looking for places where the thermometer is significantly higher, preferably with a nice beach.

Florida is the top domestic destination in AAA’s survey. Hawaii was also another favorite destination for those heading over spring break.

Other US spring break destinations ranked highly by travelers include Las Vegas, New York, San Francisco and New Orleans.

Cruising also appears to be recovering after being hit hard by the pandemic. Ships departing from the Florida ports of Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Miami and Tampa – especially those bound for the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America – top the list for bookings through AAA. Stores sailing to Alaska, Canada, northern Europe and the Persian Gulf “also saw a surge in popularity,” according to the release.

AAA also reports that international travel bookings are up 30% compared to last year.

When AAA’s survey was released earlier this month, 13 percent of Michiganders had not yet decided on spring break travel.

For those making late travel plans, AAA offers offbeat destinations, including cities in colder climates. Exploring destinations within driving distance is also recommended for a quick spring break getaway.

Tkach said the region is ready to welcome people at any time of the year.

“Who doesn’t want to come to Traverse City?” Tkach said. “Let’s give them Traverse City as a destination.”

And while restoring tourism to pre-pandemic levels will take a lot of effort, Tkach said the organization will continue to “move the needle.”

“Here’s to a great 2023,” Tkach said at the end of the March 9 annual meeting. “Let’s keep rocking the baby.”

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