Michigan Tourism Business
The Industry's eNews Source

Wednesday, May 23, 2007 The Final Issue   VOLUME 6 ISSUE 2  
A publication of the MSU Tourism Resource Center and the Department of CARRS, now with funding support from MSU Extension -- "Bringing Knowledge to Life"
 
THE MTB TEAM
Editor-in-Chief:
Donald F. Holecek

Editor & Publisher:
Lori A. Langone
 
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After five years of publication, this will be the final issue of Michigan Tourism Business.  To learn why, please read the two articles below by our Department Chairperson, Dr. Witter, and our Editor-in-Chief, Dr. Holecek.  I've enjoyed serving you during these past years.  Happy travels!  - Lori Langone, Editor & Publisher
 

AN ANNOUNCEMENT BY DR. WITTER

A Time of Transition for the Travel, Tourism and Recreation Resource Center
By Dr. Scott G. Witter

Dr. Witter is the Chairperson of the Department of Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies at Michigan State University.

For more than twenty years, the staff of the Travel, Tourism and Recreation Resource Center (TTRRC) at Michigan State University have worked diligently to produce high quality research and outreach products for many facets of the tourism industry.  Dr. Donald Holecek and his many staff members have done an outstanding job of serving the industry!  

However, state budgets and the ever changing needs of our state and the nation continually require that we assess what is most important and how we can take our programs to the next level.  If we don’t continually evolve to meet those needs, we risk losing our relevance to internal and external stakeholders.  To that end, we have decided that, effective August 1, 2007, the TTRRC will no longer exist.  We will enter into a period of transition during the next two years, during which time our goal will be to develop a new center within the Department of Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies (CARRS) that will address the research and outreach needs of the commercial recreation and tourism industries within Michigan, and beyond. 


To ensure our on-going relevance and leadership, we will soon be hiring new faculty and staff, who, with our current Recreation and Tourism faculty, will develop a new, cutting-edge research, outreach, and teaching program in commercial recreation and tourism.  These faculty will collaborate with colleagues from the Departments of Sociology, Agricultural Economics, Geography, and others to expand our research capabilities and the information and services we can provide to our traditional, as well as new, stakeholders.  We will be working on:


Academic Advancement

 

- Participating in and serving the needs of the Michigan’s tourism industry in implementing the Michigan Tourism Industry’s Strategic Plan.

 

- Expanding and strengthening the undergraduate teaching program to attract top candidates who will to provide the commercial recreation and tourism industries with excellent new interns and future employees. 

 

- Ensuring that programs are at the leading-edge of fast-changing technology.

 

- Engaging industry experts in the development and delivery of a curriculum that will provide our students with the most current information and a practical understanding of these industries.

 

- Developing a new tourism graduate program that will rank in the top five in the nation and, as a result, will attract top students from across the U.S. and around the world, and engage them in significant research that will serve the needs of the industry and prepare them as future professionals. 

 

 

Research and Outreach

 

- Becoming a national leader in addressing the changing research, engagement, and training needs of the various commercial recreation and tourism industries, including:  boating, skiing and snowboarding, snowmobiling, recreational vehicles, off-road vehicles, agricultural tourism, and others.

 

- Providing more opportunities for dialogue with the leaders of various recreation product industries to provide information and establish research agendas that are relevant to industry needs.

 

- Establishing an annual National Recreation Product Industry Conference focused on the critical issues and opportunities facing the industry.  (A series of outreach publications tailored to meeting the needs of industry, elected officials, government agencies, and academics would result.)

 

- Establishing annual workshops (e.g., trends, research) for leaders in various recreation product industries.

 

- Providing elected officials with key reports and current data on the issues affecting recreation product manufacturing, sales, and support facilities and service providers to encourage supportive public policy and programs.  (Government officials need access to information on the importance of tourism and recreation to local, state, and national economies, and the probable impact on tourism of various policy decisions.  This is especially critical for Michigan.)

 

 

International Engagement

 

- Developing strategic international partnerships to profile and develop opportunities for expanding recreation product manufacturing and sales.  (As economies continue to expand throughout the world, they bring with them an increasing interest in leisure-based enterprises, and expanding markets provide exceptional opportunities within the global marketplace.   Endowed funding would support a range of programs focused on expanding our international commercial recreation and tourism endeavors, allowing us to capitalize on opportunities to explore tourism issues from a more global perspective, develop networking opportunities, and increase understanding of cultural and social issues affecting the tourism industry throughout the world.  CARRS is currently working in Micronesia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Nepal, and India.  We are exploring tourism-based opportunities in China, Korea, and Kenya.)

 

 

To guarantee our future and to make sure that we can provide our students and external stakeholders with the opportunities and services described, we are engaged in developing over the next 3-5 years a new, $5 million program endowment in Commercial Recreation and Tourism.  We have been fully engaged with some of our larger industry stakeholders and national associations to secure this funding.  Because many industry leaders clearly recognize the significant benefits of having a great academic program servicing a wide array of their industry’s needs, we believe that it is possible to create this endowment.  The following four paragraphs are excerpted from the introduction of our endowment proposal:

 

“The faculty of the MSU Department of Community, Agriculture, Recreation, and Resource Studies (CARRS) and within the CARRS Commercial Recreation and Tourism group work in many areas that concern the development, management and marketing of tourism resources in Michigan.  We are poised to move forward with intellectual endeavors focused on tourism that are state, national, and global in scale.

 

We now have the opportunity to create a new model that brings needed research and outreach programs and information to bear on critical issues facing state and national commercial recreation and tourism industry, business, and state and national policy-makers. This model provides tools to aid tourism industries and businesses in decision-making and provides strong academic experiences that produce career-ready graduates.  We seek to expand knowledge through industry- and product-specific partnerships, and through broad-based analysis of commercial recreation and tourism trends.  In addition, we look to provide more timely and relevant outreach programs to industries, businesses, elected officials, government agencies and other decision-makers that affect the commercial recreation and tourism industry.  We also look to ensure students have access to the most advanced technology and training to meet the current and future needs of industry.

 

This new model for commercial recreation and tourism education, research and outreach will deliver up-to-date data, economic modeling and forecasting; provide relevant and integrative teaching; and engage in outreach/technical assistance focused on the needs of recreation product manufacturers, dealerships, and related tourism, travel, and service providers (e.g., marinas, campgrounds, ski areas).

 

The primary foci will be: research directed at key current and emerging informational needs of the industry; industry-specific conferences and training programs designed to disseminate research findings to industry representatives and examine new management and marketing concepts and methods; and the recruitment and education of students to fill future management positions in industries that manufacture recreation products, provide facilities and services that support and cultivate their use, and destinations that are attractive to consumers.  In Michigan, we will focus on helping to enhance the “Pure Michigan” experience by helping the tourism industry implement the Michigan Tourism Industry’s Strategic Plan.”

 

 

If/when You Call:   We are currently developing procedures to answer your calls and information needs during this transition period.  Unfortunately, we will not be able to answer all of the questions or provide all of the services you had before we embarked on this transition.  We are focusing on where we need to be to meet your needs in the future and to produce the top students available to the industry.  Because of the changes outlined above, we will discontinue this newsletter until we have had time to assess how best to distribute information about our programs.

 

I would be happy to try to answer any questions that you might have regarding our future.  I can be reached at witter@msu.edu or 517-432-0263.

 

Thank you and I look forward to our continuing partnership.
 

EDITORIAL BY DON HOLECEK

FINAL EDITORIAL:  Unmet Expectations -- A Review of My 35-Year Career at MSU
By Dr. Donald F. Holecek

Dr. Holecek is a Professor in the Department of Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies at Michigan State University and is the Director of the Travel, Tourism and Recreation Resource Center.

I distinctly recall writing my first editorial for this newsletter while on an extension trip in early spring 2002 at a small resort near New Buffalo in coastal southwestern Michigan.  I didn’t expect that Michigan Tourism Business would be published for very long, but with this last issue it has been published for five years.  

When our chairperson, Dr. Scott Witter, invited me to write an article for this issue focused on my career as a regular faculty member at Michigan State University, I agreed but was at a loss for a theme around which to pen a short set of reflections.  Then it came to me as his deadline approached.  I have had a very poor record of realizing my expectations over the course of my 35 years at MSU.  So, I’ll share a few cases where my expectations weren’t realized with generally positive outcomes.

I joined the faculty at MSU on December 1, 1972, after arriving in East Lansing on a snowy Thanksgiving Day.  I didn’t expect to stay!  One reason was that my family and I had become sold on the lifestyle and climate in Berkley, California where I completed my Ph.D. program.  Another was that my education in natural resource economics and marketing focused on forestry seemed ill suited to a career in a Department of Park and Recreation Resources (PRR), the name of my department home at MSU at the time.  Very soon, however, I became excited by the abundant opportunities available in this small, new department with a growing number of enthusiastic undergraduate and graduate students.  I began to sense that there were two possible career paths for me to choose between – one was in the well established field of forest economics that I had expected to follow and the other was in the emerging field of recreation and tourism economics, which I could play a role in developing.  The latter appealed to what I was discovering to be a creative/builder leaning element in my personality, so I decided to stay at MSU – for a while.

My expectations of what a career in academia would be like have also proven to be seriously misguided.  I thought faculty life would be relatively slow paced, filled with time to reflect on scholarly ideas with fellow faculty and a handful of exceptionally bright students.  It would also include abundant time after “normal” working hours during the week and on weekends for leisure pursuits.  And, of course, the summer would be even slower paced.  But, my academic life has not been anything like what I expected!  My first graduate student class had 52 students, and my first undergraduate student class had 125 students.  The 40-hour work week and leisurely summer with ample time to enrich my mind also proved to be myths.  Still, the work has proved to be far more interesting and rewarding than I had expected.


Reflecting on my career at MSU, it can be divided into two time periods during which my responsibilities varied substantially.  In the first approximately twelve years, my appointment was split about equally between teaching and research, and the focus of my work was dominantly park and recreation resources related.  In the second period, beginning in 1985 when the Tourism Center was established, my appointment became 75 percent research and 25 percent extension, and the focus of my work shifted to a strong emphasis on tourism.  How I worked also changed in 1985.  As an autonomous unit, the Center Director position entailed administrative duties related to program planning, budgeting, and staff, but these were not so time consuming that I couldn’t continue to pursue traditional faculty functions such as teaching, advising students, and my own research interests.  The position did force me to spread my time across a broader array of responsibilities, which I tended to view as enrichment opportunities.  Of course, my ability “to cover more bases” as Center Director has been largely due to solid and steady support from the great team of students and staff employed in the Center over the years.


As I reflect on the first of these two periods of my career, several milestones come to mind.  First, while a member of the PRR Graduate Committee, we were able to add structure and substance to the Department’s new M.S. program and establish a Ph.D. program.  These programs soon become at or near the top of similar programs in the U.S.  Program graduates are well represented today on the faculties of major universities in the U.S., as well as in many other countries. Second, along with other faculty and graduate students, the foundation of a research program in water-based recreation was established, which has been maintained for over 30 years.  Projects initiated in these early years that come to mind include: 1) estimating the economic impact and importance of recreational boating in Michigan, including the Detroit Boat Show, 2) an evaluation of Michigan’s inland lake public access program, and 3) a series of studies focused on underwater resources in Michigan’s Great Lakes.  These studies have been influential in shaping development, management, and policy of Michigan’s water resources, including establishing “underwater parks” in our Great Lakes.


The third noteworthy development during this first period of my career was the major expansion of the Department’s programs into the private sectors of commercial recreation and tourism.  The shift occurred gradually.  Initially, a couple of courses were added to the curricula; then faculty were hired to teach them; and, along the way, a growing number of tourism-related research projects were added to the Department’s research portfolio.  To better reflect the emerging public/private sector balance, the name of the Department was eventually changed from PRR to Park, Recreation, and Tourism Resources (PRTR).

The last noteworthy early career milestone that I’ll mention is the effort that resulted in establishment of the Michigan Travel, Tourism, and Recreation Resource Center (generally known as the Tourism Center) at MSU.  The idea for the Center emerged during a difficult economic time in Michigan when the search was underway for options to energize the state’s then flagging economy.  The Department became engaged in the quest for ideas to support tourism development, one of which was to establish the Center – a one-stop source of information to support public and private sector investment in tourism.  I worked in the Michigan Travel Bureau (now Travel Michigan) on a sabbatical leave during which the proposal to create the Center was embellished, refined, and reviewed.  In 1985, the state appropriated funds to support the Center at MSU.

It is difficult to note all of the significant milestones that occurred during the post-Center-creation period of my career, since so many could be mentioned.  However, they can be grouped under the three following general headings: 1) secondary data driven, 2) primary data driven, and 3) “putting it all together.”


Secondary Data Driven
– One stated objective of the Center was to gather existing relevant data from various sources and make them readily accessible to support private and public sector tourism policy and investment decisions.  In effect, we were charged with building a “one-stop shopping center” for information concerning Michigan’s tourism industry.  In gearing up for this editorial-writing task, I recalled that the Center’s first major investment was in a Compaq PC costing about $4,000. 

Looking back, it is easy to see how changing technology has shaped the ways we addressed our mission over the years. Personal computing in those early days greatly facilitated the processing of large volumes of data to produce useful information, but providing timely access to that information at the time was challenging and expensive.  We relied upon print media to publish two editions of Travel and Tourism in Michigan: A Statistical Profile (Dr. Dan Spotts/Spencer, editor) and a newsletter distributed primarily through county Extension offices.  We also spent many hours conversing with stakeholders on the phone to answer questions and respond to their information requests.  These conversations were especially helpful in identifying needed information which wasn’t available.  What we learned framed the primary data driven phase of the Center’s program.


Primary Data Driven
– Another objective in the initial plan for the Center was to conduct the research needed to fill critical information voids about tourism in Michigan.  These voids became increasingly clear over the course of the secondary data driven period discussed above, but the problem we faced was lack of the funds needed to support substantive primary data collection and analyses.  In 1995, we were successful in obtaining generous three-year grants from MAES, MSU’s Office of the Provost, and Travel Michigan to initiate the regional Michigan Travel Market (MTM) survey.  More than 400 telephone surveys of households were completed each month between January 1996 and June 2003.  Through the survey, we produced a wealth of information about Michigan’s travel markets and how they were changing over time.  We now know the characteristics of our tourists, what they do, when they visit, where they go, and a great deal more.   

The data collected in the MTM survey have been used by very many businesses and other organizations for a variety of purposes.  For example, data generated in that survey project were used several years ago while preparing our assessment of the economic impact of Post-Labor Day Schools legislation.  This assessment has been acknowledged to have been instrumental in the passage of the legislation.  Advancements in technology played a huge role in dealing with the access-to-information challenge noted earlier.  This newsletter is one example, allowing us to communicate information in a timely fashion at very minimal cost.  Our website is another example.  We have posted presentations, forecasts, and study results there which could be accessed whenever such information was needed.  Technology has reduced our direct contact with stakeholders, which is a bit unfortunate, but it also greatly increased the number of stakeholders we could serve at a substantially reduced cost.

“Putting It All Together” – The proposal to create the Center also included the objective of creating a Michigan tourism industry development plan based upon an information foundation built by the Center’s employees.  I am reminded that I was invited to spend my sabbatical leave with the Michigan Travel Bureau to assist it in developing such a plan.  After a few weeks of effort, we realized that much of the information needed to develop a plan did not exist; hence, the emphasis of my remaining sabbatical was on developing the Center proposal.  The thinking at the time was that once a Center was established, its staff would create the objective information needed to develop a knowledge-based plan.  

Now, here we are in 2007 with a plan developed “for the industry by the industry” that is based upon a full and sound information foundation.  (To view the plan, go to http://tourismplan.msu.edu/.)  I would be remiss in not noting that information, while crucial to the plan, was not the only factor underlying the planning project.  Technology again played a role, especially in facilitating timely communications throughout the project.  But, most important of all, was the engagement of so many who contributed so much to the process.


My theme for this editorial has been expectations that I held during my career which were not met but which yielded positive outcomes.  When we initially proposed a project to develop a comprehensive plan for Michigan’s tourism industry, we were rebuffed. The reason given was that this industry was not ready or “together enough” to develop a plan.  I expected otherwise, and I am gratified by you proving me correct for once in my career!


As always, I look forward to working with you as I take yet another path, working retirement. Thanks to all of you who have contributed to making my life so enriching and enjoyable for so many years.



To contact Dr. Holecek, write to dholecek@msu.edu.

 

Published by Lori A. Langone
Copyright © 2007 Michigan State University Board of Trustees. All rights reserved.
Published by the Tourism Resource Center and the Department of Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies with funding support from Michigan State University Extension - "Helping people improve their lives through an educational process that applies knowledge to critical needs, issues, and opportunities." MSU is an affirmative-action, equal-opportunity institution.
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