Study argues ‘Pure Michigan is a bust’

Mackinac Center for Public Policy study questions state taxpayer-funded campaign

Mackinac Island, Grand Hotel
The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. (file)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — We’ve all seen or heard the ads: the voice of Tim Allen on our TV or radio or billboards posted along highways.

The multimillion-dollar Pure Michigan campaign aims to bring more tourists to our state. but a new study claims it’s not as effective as you might think.

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy released a study this week that accuses the campaign of being a waste of taxpayer dollars. The center says that for every dollar spent, 98 cents is lost and only 2 cents generated for the state’s hotel industry.

The study counted only hotels and motels.

“The reason we limited ourselves is because they’re the most likely to be impacted by an increase in tourism promotion spending. It’s the biggest sector, hotels and motels,” Director of Fiscal Policy and study co-author Michael LaFaive told 24 Hour News 8.

The study also looked at income increases for art industry professionals, like musicians.

“We found that for artists in the state, the $1 million increase in tourism promotion resulted in a shared increase in income of just $35,000,” LaFaive said. “I would like to see the state legislature cancel the program because it’s very ineffective and the only publicly available and transparent evidence shows that.”

Those numbers are polar opposite to the findings behind the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, which runs the campaign. The MEDC has never released the mathematics behind its findings, but commissioned studies through Canada-based Longwoods International to examine Pure Michigan’s success. A 2015 study found that every $1 the state spent on advertising generated $7.67.

MEDC sent 24 Hour News 8 this statement in response to the Mackinac Center’s study:

“We stand by the economic impact and ROI data in the Longwoods Study and are confident in its methodology and results. The Pure Michigan campaign has proven time and again to be a strong investment for the state. We are focused on our efforts, in partnership with the industry, to continue growing tourism, and the economic impact it generates, across the state.”

The state budget has set aside $34 million for the Pure Michigan campaign in the upcoming year.