After many months of time and effort have been invested in the creation of ‘strategic plans,’ too many end up woefully neglected either yellowing in files or gathering dust on bookshelves. That’s why it is always refreshing to witness a successful strategic plan implementation, as in the case of the 2012-2017 Michigan Tourism Strategic Plan.
We recently caught up with a key architect of the plan, MSU tourism researcher Dr. Sarah Nicholls. “The plan’s intent was to develop a set of goals and objectives to help us grow Michigan’s tourism industry,” says Nicholls. “It’s about exceeding visitors’ expectations and delivering on the Pure Michigan promise.”
Nicholls and colleagues in the MSU Dept. of Community Sustainability developed and implemented the plan in very close collaboration with the Michigan Travel Commission and members of the tourism industry. She says the five-year plan will be assessed at the end of the year. New goals and objectives will then be developed to continue promote Michigan’s tourism industry.
Christian Overland chairs the Michigan Travel Commission and is executive vice president of The Henry Ford.
He says the commission “is a very robust leadership group that works hard to be an advocate for the industry but also be creative and innovative in how we can implement the strategic plan.
“People are becoming more aware of Michigan, not only as a place to spend time and vacation, but also perhaps as a place to live and bring a business and develop a work force,” Overland says. “So the Pure Michigan brand has been great to extend across the United States and now across the world.”
One of the components of the strategic plan was the establishment of the Pure Award, which recognizes Michigan tourism entities that have “pioneered innovative and exemplary best practices in natural, cultural and/or heritage stewardship into their daily operations.”
The first Pure Award was presented in 2016, and the second was awarded earlier this year at the Pure Michigan Governor’s Conference on Tourism to the Headlands International Dark Sky Park, in Emmet County. Headlands was selected “based on its recognition of the night sky as a vast and vanishing natural resource that is essential to today's global conversation about habitat protection, energy resource management and tourism.” The park is home to approximately 550 acres of woodlands, more than two miles of undeveloped Lake Michigan shoreline and many species of rare and endangered plant life.
“The Pure Award follows the idea of Pure Michigan,” says Overland. “It honors organizations that sustain and steward our resources forward.”
Nicholls, whose work is funded, in part, by MSU AgBioResearch, says the industry outlook for the year “in general is extremely positive as long as the weather cooperates.” A successful 2017 would continue a recent, multi-year trend in industry growth. She adds that the Pure Michigan Promise delivers motivational videos “that really try to educate every single resident of the state about how important it is to welcome all visitors to Michigan and help provide them the very best experience they can have when they’re in our state.”
Greening of the Great Lakes airs inside MSU Today Sunday afternoons at 4:00 on 94.5 FM and AM 870.