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'It really is Pure Michigan': Tourism leader hopeful for budget restoration

The CEO of the West Michigan Tourist Association explains the recreational and economic benefits that the Pure Michigan budget brings to Michiganders and tourists.

MICHIGAN, USA — Tuesday, Michigan lawmakers restored more than half of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's vetoed funds from the state budget, but not the Pure Michigan tourism one.

"It's very important that this gets resolved as soon as possible," said Dan Sippel, the CEO of the West Michigan Tourist Association. 

The tourist association is working with the staff at Pure Michigan to encourage lawmakers to protect the novelties the campaign allows Michiganders and people nationwide to enjoy, and the economic growth it propels. 

"Look up and down West Michigan [at] those small communities that blossom in the summer and quadruple in size, and the economic impact of all the festivals and events that happen throughout this state; that is what tourism in Michigan is all about," Sippel said. 

Last year, the campaign brought in more than $143 million in state tax revenue, he said. Those funds help with the roads, education and jobs.

Also in 2018, there were 2.1 million trips from outside of Michigan, according to him. Travelers hailed from as far away as China, Britain and Germany.

"Nothing beats bringing people here," he said.

But if the budget drops, then Michigan won't be the "top of mind" for people's travel destinations, Sipple said. 

Nor will the campaign be as effective to support the production and utilization of Michigan's natural resources such as the Great Lakes, inland lakes, national parks, ski resorts, and more. 

Credit: Pure Michigan

Crystal Mountain — a popular ski resort in northern Michigan — opened before Thanksgiving this year for the first time in 20 years, thanks to the boost in revenue resulting from the Pure Michigan campaign coupled with the cold weather that allowed the resort to make enough snow to open.

"It's great for people to be able to get out and not just fear winter but interact with it and play with it," Sippel said.

But people won’t be enticed to enjoy the activities Michigan offers such as snow sports if the Pure Michigan funding is cut, because they won’t be widely promoted. 

The campaign has grown in popularity due in part to the TV commercials that are aired across the nation and voiced by Michigan native actor Tim Allen.

Sippel is not sure why the nearly 11-year campaign is being singled out like this in the budget cuts. But he said it's more than just an "advertising campaign" as he said the governor has called it.

"It's a feel-good campaign. It makes Michiganders feel good about themselves. It really is 'Pure Michigan'."

Sippel doesn't believe the funding will be gone forever. Still, he doesn't want the state to suffer the repercussions that could be brought to the tourism industry until a potential supplemental budget is restored.

He said there are rumors that could be in January. He is hoping it will be restored to the full $35 million, but he'd accept if it goes down to $31 million as lawmakers have talked about.

"We just need to get a budget going soon," he said.

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