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Posted on Wed, Sep 5, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Ann Arbor area leads Midwest in strong tourism revenue growth

By Ben Freed


While many hotels in the county saw record occupancy, The Dahlmann Campus Inn on Ann Arbor's East Huron Street actually had a lower rate in July, just under 54 percent.

Melanie Maxwell |

In large part thanks to the Ann Arbor Art Fairs and the United Association's instructor training programs, Washtenaw County led the entire Midwest in hotel occupancy in the month of July.

Statistics released Aug. 31 by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation showed increased tourism across the state, with the Ann Arbor area leading the way.

July’s 70.9 percent state-wide hotel occupancy level was the highest for a single month since 2004. Washtenaw County turned in an impressive 78.8 percent occupancy rate. That number was boosted by major events and even power outages that hit the region after severe storms in early July.

“We are continuing to see increased hotel occupancy rates and record-setting tourism spending here in the state, helping to support local businesses and nearly 200,000 jobs in communities across Michigan,” George Zimmermann, vice president of Travel Michigan, said in a news release.

The industry has been seeing increases since the MEDC launched the Pure Michigan advertising campaign four years ago. Visitor spending in Michigan was up $500 million in 2011 totaling $17.7 billion dollars. In Ann Arbor, hotels reported a 16 percent increase in revenue over the previous year. That spending generated nearly $1 billion in tax revenue for the state, according to the release.

"In 2012 we launched our largest national ad campaign to date, with Pure Michigan television commercials airing more than 5,000 times on national cable channels,” Zimmermann said in the statement.

Ann Arbor's occupancy will continue to be filled as football season gets under way. The demand for hotel rooms in the area is so high that a side "house rental" market is gaining traction in the city.

Washtenaw County’s monthly and year-to-date hotel occupancy numbers are up from 2011 by about 3.5 percent. Chicago, Madison, Wisc., and Detroit followed the region as the next highest areas of occupancy in the Midwest.

Ben Freed covers business for Reach him at 734-623-2528 or email him at Follow him on twitter @BFreedinA2


Dog Guy

Thu, Sep 6, 2012 : 1:26 a.m.

I'd like to welcome 40,000 U of M tourists back to Ann Arbor.

say it plain

Wed, Sep 5, 2012 : 2:39 p.m.

Cute boosterism attempt masquerading as journalism lol! Does the occupancy rate include the two new hotels almost finished out by the Mall yet, just to pretend anyone is really interested about the 'rates'?! It will soon reduce the numbers a little I'd guess, though of course (duh...I hate to have to speak like a 14 year old kid, but, um, hello?! ) during Art Fair and the one or one-and-a-half big conferences a year many hotels anywhere around here will still fill up pretty well (and don't forget football games!) "Tourism" (meaning, apparently we're allowed to say, professional meetings that happen from time to time and occur on a corporate or government dime and might indeed be subject to eventual decline, gasp!) in the midwest is probably fairly low during a recession lol. Though I hear that things have been *crazy* busy up in Traverse City and Sleeping Bear Dunes since GoodMorningAmerica named the Dunes " the Most Beautiful Place in America". It deserves increased tourism, because it is lovely... but the marketing-campaigns being so much the same as "news" is hurting news. Nobody's coming to Ann Arbor to eat on Main Street, much as the DDA would like to believe. This piece (I agree with @RUKiddingMe!) makes it sound like people are coming here from Chicago or Australia even to do that...too funny!

Lets Get Real

Wed, Sep 5, 2012 : 1:22 p.m.

78.8%? Impressive jump in the occupancy statistic from the mid 60%s reported in the past. Maybe, for national branded hotels and motels, but just what does this statistic really say and how did that suddenly happen? Recently, the County Commissioners expmpted the Bed and Breakfasts and small inns under 14 rooms from reporting their occupancy via the accommodation tax report (reported in In retalliation, the CVB - under the direction of the Treasurer - has abandoned support for the local inns and B&Bs. Now the County treasurer is manipulating the numbers, falsely inflating true occupancy rate to imply "effeciency and effectiveness" of the treasurer's office in an effort enhance and support her claims for re-relection. After harassing the small inns and Bed & Breakfasts with frivolous, ridiculously exaggerated claims for years to no avail - spending more on litigation lawyers than the amounts that were collectable - she is spinning the stats to benefit her case for re-election. In another effort, she has put the CVB in the middle of a terrible dispute between the CVB and the lodging establishments who collect the tax that funds the CVB budget. Do you know, if you live in the county, you pay a hired enforcer? To justify the revenue to fund the enforcer position, the treasurer has a new "creative" interpretation of the ordinance? Although the accommodation tax ordinance charges the lodging properties with the task of collecting 5% tax on room fees, the treasurer ARBITRARILY expanded interpretation to include any other fees "associated" with a room stay: i.e. crib rental, room service, restaurant meals charged to the room, pet fee, cot rental, etc. A friendly 'welcome to Ann Arbor' smack in the face to all those visitors we are inviting here. Visit Ann Arbor, we tax everything you do! The County Treasurer is accountable ONLY to the taxpayers, not the Commissioners. Would you like a job with no performance review?

say it plain

Wed, Sep 5, 2012 : 3:08 p.m.

OOh, thanks for doing the journalism for @LetsGetReal, those are fascinating points! I'd love to hear address these points...can the increase be accounted for fully by this? One must wonder... And thanks for the info on the County's tactics!

average joe

Wed, Sep 5, 2012 : 1:14 p.m.

The first paragraph is the accurate statement of the story, & is really all we need to know.


Wed, Sep 5, 2012 : 1:08 p.m.

I wonder if this attempt to link one-off data (a UA training program one time location, POWER OUTAGES for God's sake) to some spurious claim of increased tourism is influenced by someone (or some group)'s desire to build a new train station and/or cobnvention center of some kind. Or is it to tout the benefits of the multimillion Pure Michigan campaign? Either way, it's depressing that we don't have good enough numbers that we can't use something besides the Art Fair or power outages as the example. If, in the list of increases in hotel stays that I'm using to claim an increase in tourism, POWER OUTAGES is in my top three, that seems more like bad news to me.


Wed, Sep 5, 2012 : 2:42 p.m.

UA is an annual event, as is Art Fair. While these aren't tourism, they aren't one time like the power outages. OR rather, unplanned, because lord I *wish* the pwoer outages were one time this summer.


Wed, Sep 5, 2012 : 12:33 p.m.

So it sounds like Ann Arbor is pretty underbuilt in terms of hotel space.


Wed, Sep 5, 2012 : 12:10 p.m.

One month in a row, eh?


Wed, Sep 5, 2012 : 11:48 a.m.

Regardless of the source of the record-breaking occupancy for the midwest, this is great news. However, factor that we have 20 years of occupancy that results in struggle to break even, and you see the clear picture here. 20 yrs x 12mos/yr= 240 mos. 1 mo success of 240 mos = .4% success rate. Few privateers will build on this success rate. Twelve months of strong occupancy will incent the private sector, as will eight months, and possibly six. 1 month of record success of 240 mos? To phrase it in sports terminology 1 win in 240 games is a dismal losing record. Beware of anyone that tells you otherwise, especially if they have DDA or Hieftje / a2 city council in their name.


Wed, Sep 5, 2012 : 11:33 a.m.

The MEDC claims make no sense to me. They use the United Associations instructor training and UM football games, tie them to hotel occupancy and call it "tourism" learning how to fix a toilet is now a tourist destination?

average joe

Wed, Sep 5, 2012 : 1:09 p.m.

I agree- Even the increase due to the art fair is for the most part because the vendors need some place to stay, and are not 'tourists'. Hotel occupancy rates do not equal high tourism.

Chip Reed

Wed, Sep 5, 2012 : 10:13 a.m.

Quick! Let's build a convention center!


Wed, Sep 5, 2012 : 12:31 p.m.

We can debate the exact site, but between the cultural offerings downtown and the volume of research activity at U of M, Ann Arbor is turning its back on a great deal of economic expansion without more lodging and conference space somewhere near downtown.