What are the greatest threats to Michigan’s tourism industry?

Michigan State University survey reveals the industry’s greatest concerns.

The Resources and Environment (RE) goal of the 2012-2017 Michigan Tourism Strategic Plan (MTSP) is for Michigan to “Be internationally recognized for our stewardship of – and rich opportunities to experience – our natural, cultural, and heritage resources.” One of the three objectives within that goal, and the objective which the RE implementation committee is prioritizing during its first year of activity, is to “Identify key issues facing and threats to the integrity of Michigan’s tourism resources and raise awareness of and support for these issues.”

To help identify what the tourism industry perceives to be its key issues and threats, a simple survey was sent out to industry professionals. The survey provided respondents with a list of thirteen issues that had been identified during the course of MTSP development and/or by the RE committee, and asked them to pick the three-five that they considered most critical. In addition, respondents were able to identify other issues/threats not included on that list, though most chose not to make their own additions.

The results were as follows, ranked by the proportion of respondents who selected each item and based on 506 responses:

  • Spread of invasive species (aquatic & terrestrial) – 65.2 percent
  • Lack of/limited funding for resource protection/maintenance – 59.5 percent
  • Declining water quality of our lakes, rivers and streams – 42.7 percent
  • Declining water levels of our lakes, rivers and streams – 41.3 percent
  • Diversion of water from the Great Lakes – 39.3 percent
  • Reduction in historic preservation tax credits – 28.9 percent
  • Closure of Department of History, Arts and Libraries – 25.1 percent
  • Fracking – 24.5 percent
  • Need for better/faster adoption of technology at tourism sites – 20.8 percent
  • Under-appreciation of Native American history and culture – 20.0 percent
  • Climate change – 16.8 percent
  • Spread of infectious diseases – 8.5 percent
  • Increasing number of wind farms – 7.7 percent

Based on the results of this survey, the RE committee will for now concentrate its efforts in two key areas: water-related issues (aquatic invasive species, water quality, lake/river/stream levels and flows, etc.) and historic preservation. Ways in which the tourism industry can work to raise awareness of and support for these issues, for example via strategic alliances with similarly-concerned groups, are now being considered.

For more information about the 2012-2017 Michigan Tourism Strategic Plan, please contact MSU faculty member Dr. Sarah Nicholls at nicho210@msu.edu. Michigan State University Extension has experts in tourism working throughout Michigan that can assist communities and counties in tourism development. 

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