TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. – Vacationers flowed via Traverse Metropolis at a powerful tempo throughout trip season 2021. However the hospitality trade nonetheless needed to cope with a bumpy highway because the COVID-19 pandemic lingered.
“Towards the top of summer time, we have been beginning to see occupancy numbers just like 2019, which was a reduction,” stated Trevor Tkach, president and CEO of Traverse Metropolis Tourism, “as a result of it was a reasonably underwhelming begin in 2021, per what we’d been experiencing in 2020 with the pandemic.”
Pre-pandemic resort room occupancy in 2019 was robust. Numbers in 2020 have been depressed due to journey and assembly restrictions attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Associated: Northern Michigan wineries to go to for a enjoyable weekend journey
Learn extra: This stunning northern Michigan vineyard has breathtaking views
“We had some setbacks initially of 2021,” Tkach stated. “The Nice Wolf Lodge was closed as a result of indoor waterparks weren’t allowed to function. And we nonetheless weren’t executing convention enterprise on the degree we historically would have been capable of. It took somewhat bit to get again on observe this yr.”
Late summer time introduced extra vacationers to Traverse Metropolis, and the remainder of the yr seems extra upbeat for the hospitality trade, with a number of massive occasions filling resort rooms.
“Issues look nice,” Tkach stated. “We had the Ironman 70.3 in Frankfort. We’ve received (NHL) Prospect Coaching Camp and Crimson Wings Coaching Camp. We’ve received TBAYS Autumn Basic Soccer Event. And we’re beginning to see some convention enterprise come again as properly. We anticipate a powerful colour season and harvest season.”
Resorts all through northwest Decrease Michigan report a stable trip season.
“We’ve had an important summer time,” stated Sammie Lukaskiewicz, director of public relations at Crystal Mountain Resort & Spa, on the southern fringe of Benzie County.
“There was some pent-up demand from of us who could not have traveled final yr,” she stated. “I believe the vaccines have given individuals some confidence in touring once more. There was some alternative with joint promotion with Traverse Metropolis Tourism that has helped us throughout.”
The Benzie County Space Conference and Guests Bureau in February 2020 was dissolved, as beforehand reported, and Traverse Metropolis Tourism grew to become the official advertising and marketing group for lodging properties in Benzie.
“The fantastic thing about our enterprise is that the outside by no means closes,” stated Lukaskiewicz. “We’ve got an outdoor-focused enterprise, the place individuals can socially distance, lead wholesome life outdoors. It’s definitely been a very good summer time for us.”
Crystal, after being shut down like many companies throughout the first weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, reopened in Might 2020. The resort’s rooms didn’t instantly replenish.
“It took a short time for individuals to have the arrogance in journey,” Lukaskiewicz stated. “We added security infrastructure: from air scrubbers to HEPA filters that we positioned in frequent areas.”
Crystal additionally tailored to the pandemic world by putting in a touchless system for purchasers to buy raise tickets. Customers should purchase an RFID card that may be reloaded by way of residence pc with raise tickets or season passes.
“We put in RFID gates on chairlifts for winter (2020) that we used for summer time, for chairlift rides for the alpine slide,” stated Lukaskiewicz.
Vacationers flocked to Sleeping Bear Dunes Nationwide Lakeshore in file numbers all through the primary half of 2021.
“Final yr set a file,” stated Sleeping Bear Dunes Nationwide Lakeshore Deputy Superintendent Tom Ulrich. “And we have been on tempo (in 2021) to simply blow that file away via June. By way of June, each month set a brand new file, besides April — it was the second-highest April.”
“However then July and August have been about what we’ve averaged during the last 5 years. So that they have been down from final yr’s file highs, however they have been nonetheless about what we’ve been averaging during the last 5 years, that are our 5 greatest visitation years ever. So it wasn’t prefer it fell off to lower than the previous — it simply went down from its file.”
July and August set park visitation data in 2020, months when journey to northern Michigan exploded as pent-up demand for outside recreation burst out after coronavirus journey lockdowns eased however indoor and crowded outside leisure venues nonetheless have been restricted in lots of areas.
“There’s some outside recreation and leisure accessible now that was not accessible final summer time,” Ulrich stated. “You possibly can go to amusement parks now, you possibly can go to outside reside music venues. None of that was taking place final yr.”
Some Sleeping Bear amenities have been closed in 2020 from late March into Might. The campground was closed into June 2020. The Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive was closed into July 2020, due to development unrelated to the pandemic.
The primary sights at many nationwide historic websites that require guests to be in shut quarters, similar to presidential properties, stay closed to at the present time, Ulrich stated. However nationwide parks that function outside actions are open throughout the nation.
“It’s been an incredible couple of years. It’s considerably gratifying, the exhausting work of all of the employees, who actually have gone via lots of uncertainty and lots of further cleansing precautions. Lots of people love this place.”
Guests in 2021 got here to northwest Decrease Michigan to play and keep.
“It’s been an incredible summer time,” stated Ron Robinson, director of operations for Summerside Properties, which operates the Cambria Resort, Greatest Western Plus and Consolation Inn. “We set data for gross sales in June, July and August. And September might be the identical.”
“2019 was such a busy yr. It was one in every of our greatest summers so far as the resorts go. However, each a type of months, we beat 2019.”
Summerside’s resorts ran at full pace all through the holiday season.
“The demand is big, as in individuals looking for rooms, and never having the ability to discover them,” Robinson stated. “Stroll-in site visitors is means up.”
The widespread labor scarcity has pressured some properties, unable to rent sufficient housekeepers, to chop again on the variety of rooms they lease.
“There’s a very good probability we might have performed extra enterprise this summer time if we might have had a stronger workforce,” stated Tkach. “The hospitality and tourism trade is certainly affected by a scarcity of workforce proper now. We have been previous to the pandemic. It’s undoubtedly gotten worse. Everyone has acknowledged this, that eating places aren’t capable of function at full pace or at full occupancy.
“A few of our greater resorts, like Grand Traverse Resort and Spa, aren’t capable of even put all of their rooms, their stock, on-line — as a result of they don’t have sufficient employees to service the company. Arguably, our occupancy might have been increased if we’d had extra staff to assist, extra rooms accessible.”
There’s no employee scarcity at Summerside’s properties.
“Early in summer time,” Robinson stated, “we decided that we have to pay individuals extra so as to have the very best employees and to have sufficient employees. We elevated all of our wages by about 20 %. After which we instituted an added bonus program: We paid each worker a $5 bonus per hour, July, August, September, and it’s going to undergo October. So if any person hires in at $16 an hour beginning wage, and so they get that $5 an hour bonus, they’re making $21.”
“It was a giant expense, however you must — you get what you pay for. We’ve got the workers we want, and we’ve good staff.”
Cambria’s eatery additionally carried out properly this summer time.
“Replicate restaurant simply did wonderful, nearly double final yr,” Robinson stated.
The restaurant enterprise was stable in the summertime months final yr, he stated, as individuals started journey to northwest Decrease Michigan as a result of COVID-19 restrictions saved eating places closed downstate. So this yr’s excellent Replicate Bistro efficiency was a little bit of a shock.
“It’s such a query mark,” Robinson stated of present circumstances. “What’s going to occur? How are individuals going to react? Going ahead, will there be extra restrictions? Will individuals assume, ought to we journey now, as a result of we could also be restricted two months from now?”
“It’s not like you’ve gotten a highway map that’s going to let you know what’s going to occur. As a result of every little thing is so totally different.”
Traverse Metropolis Tourism is a commerce group funded by an evaluation on lodging room leases. Tourism drives room leases, however so do conventions and group occasions. Traverse Metropolis could have a surplus of rooms for a while to come back, at the very least in the course of the week.
“We don’t anticipate group and assembly enterprise to be again to the place it was pre-pandemic, and we rely closely on that enterprise for mid-week occupancy,” stated Tkach. “I imagine we are going to do properly, however I don’t assume leisure will be capable of make up for the losses in group and assembly enterprise.”
Wanting additional forward, Tkach is assured Traverse Metropolis finally will regain momentum within the assembly and group sector.
“It is going to come again — it’ll be a gradual, regular surge. All indicators that we’ve seen nationally are that it’ll take in all probability three years to get again to the place we have been previous to the pandemic,” he stated.
Leisure tourism introduced constant summer time demand for resort rooms, however exercise tapered off close to the top of August.
“I believe lots of people have been anxious about colleges going again in session,” stated Tkach. “It felt like individuals have been on increased alert round that time-frame. Which I believe had an influence on journey to our area.”
For copyright info, examine with the distributor of this merchandise, Traverse Metropolis Report-Eagle.