HILLSDALE — A guest from Travel Michigan, a branch of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) which is responsible for implementing the “Pure Michigan” branding used in Michigan’s ongoing tourism efforts, headlined the Hillsdale Chamber of Commerce’s Tuesday workshop at Bigby Coffee in Hillsdale.
David Lorenz, vice president of Travel Michigan, was the guest presenter at Tuesday’s session, where he spoke on the benefits of forming a convention and visitors bureau (CVB) in Hillsdale County.
“Every community has something to share,” said Lorenz. “Believe me there is something here that people want to experience. And doing so, they will come if you invite them.”
Tuesday’s workshop is one of almost a dozen training sessions put on by the chamber this year alone, with a focus on tourism — due to a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) grant awarded to the Chamber to assist the county in the establishment of a tourism focus, with the goal of creating jobs in the county’s tourism sector.
Lorenz recommended that chamber members consider creating a Convention and Visitors Bureau to promote Hillsdale County, as well as consider the possibility of merging or contracting with the already existing Coldwater Country Conference & Visitors Bureau, because of the similarities of both counties.
Under Public Act 59, a CVB would require a referendum among hoteliers with 10 rooms or more in their facility, requiring a majority of support to go into effect, with each room counting as a single vote in the referendum.
An active CVB would see hotels collect a self-assessment of between two and five percent on guests’ hotel bills, with the captured money going to the local tourism bureau to promote the region.
In 2008, Michigan launched its now-famous Pure Michigan advertising campaign – a campaign that sought to brand Michigan as a travel and tourism destination – most notably featuring the voice of actor, comedian, and Michigan native, Tim Allen.
The advertisement campaign, now entering its second decade, has become a nationally recognizable brand as state agencies, local units of government, and retailers have incorporated the logo into their organizations to promote their ties to the Great Lakes State.
“Pure Michigan is considered, if not the number one state travel marketing organization in the country, certainly one of the top,” said Lorenz. “Everybody looks to us in the country to see what were doing … everything we do everybody else tries to do … that has happened because of our affiliations with our conventions and visitors bureaus.”
“This would be a good move that would help things get this region percolating”, said Lorenz.
Randy Yagiela, who was contracted by the Hillsdale County Chamber of Commerce to work on the project, told attendees that there are multiple ways to move forward with the creation of a CVB.
Yagiela said that he would provide a recap and make recommendations for a steering committee to move ahead if the Chamber is receptive in the weeks ahead.
The Chambers’ ongoing training sessions are free to the public as a result of the U.S.D.A. grant. However, attendees must register on the Chamber website to reserve a spot at one of the sessions.
There are two remaining sessions scheduled after Tuesdays workshop. The first takes place on July 24, and deals with “Finalizing the Structure of the Hillsdale Tourism Organization,” while the last session in the series, “The Tourism Playbook,” originally scheduled for July 26, will be held on a date announced a later time.
A make up training session for participants who missed an event is tentatively scheduled for July 30.