Cultural Tourism Continues to Gain Attention in Michigan
By Dr. Gail Vander Stoep, Associate Professor in the Department of Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies at Michigan State University
Flash! Michigan AAA has partnered with Michigan’s museums and other cultural institutions for over five years to promote cultural tourism in the state.
Flash! Michigan’s Department of History, Arts and Libraries (HAL) has a cultural tourism plan.
Flash! Michigan’s Automobile National Heritage Area (MotorCities) is honored with the “Outstanding Planning Project Award for a Special Community Initiative” by the Michigan Society of Planners (2002).
Flash! Representatives for Michigan’s Great Outdoors Culture Tour were featured at the “Joint Ventures: Partnerships 2003” conference in Los Angeles and performed on AmTrak trains en route to and from the conference.
Flash! Historic sites and cultural events are being used by communities to attract tourists as well as to enhance the quality of life for residents and contribute to economic development.
Flash! Travel Michigan and MotorCities supported research to assess the economic impacts of museums in Michigan.
For nearly a decade Michigan’s museums and other cultural institutions have partnered with numerous state agencies, professional organizations, non-profit organizations and private business, including the tourism industry -- using conferences, publications, training sessions, research and face-to-face interaction -- to enhance and promote cultural tourism in the state. Michigan’s efforts are in response to national and global trends in increased interest by segments of the traveling public to engage in cultural events, to explore the history and heritage of places, to learn the stories of people inhabiting those places, and to seek authentic heritage experiences of their own as they travel for business or pleasure.
For decades, museums and the arts have focused on meeting the needs of community residents, educating the public, and preserving objects, documents and other records of historic value. More recently, the contributions of such organizations to economic development and preservation of community structures and vitality have been noted. A recent study (data collected in 2002-2003), strongly supported by Michigan Museums Association (MMA) and funded by MEDC/Travel Michigan and MotorCities: Automobile National Heritage Area, was completed. The study, intended to estimate the economic impacts of cultural tourism in Michigan, was a follow-up to a 1996 study (conducted through a MMA/Michigan State University partnership) that focused on establishing baseline information about Michigan museums’ then-current involvement and readiness to expand participation in tourism. The earlier study was confined to providers, as only museum administrators were contacted.
The recent study was intended to estimate economic impacts of cultural tourism in Michigan, and incorporated input from both the providers and their visitors. Due to the complexity of cultural tourism (inclusion of multiple elements, such as museum and other site-based experiences, performing arts, locally produced crafts, agricultural heritage and products, festivals and special events, tourism businesses housed in renovated historic structures, travel along heritage routes) and funding constraints, the decision was made to focus this study. Thus, cultural tourism is represented by visitors who traveled more than 50 miles from home on a trip that involved a visit to at least one museum. “Museum” was defined broadly, according the American Association of Museums’ definition, to include history museums, historic houses or sites, general museums, children's and youth museums, art museums, natural history and anthropology museums, science and technology museums, nature centers, zoos and aquaria, arboretums and botanical gardens, and other specialized museums such as lighthouses and maritime museums. Consistent with this decision, museums were used as the initial visitor contact sites.
The administrator survey was sent to 470 museums. After “undeliverable,” duplicate and other problem sites were culled, a list of 373 museums remained, the vast majority of which were classified as “small” (having annual budgets of less than $250,000). Of these, 182 returned completed surveys (response rate of 46%). Visitor count data, as well as staffing and annual budget data from these surveys, were used in combination with visitor spending data to estimate economic impacts.
The second part of the study involved contacting visitors at 35 “large” and “medium” museums throughout Michigan. Over 6,400 visitors completed an on-site survey. Of the 3,839 agreeing to complete a longer post-trip survey, 1,280 ultimately did so. About one third of these were from visitors to museums in southeast Michigan; about one quarter were from northern lower and upper peninsulas (including the Mackinac Straits area); the remainder were from museums across the southern tier of the state. For the analysis, visitors were categorized by local and non-local visitors (those traveling more than 50 miles from home), and by day and overnight travelers. Those staying overnight in the museum community were categorized by lodging type (hotel vs. all other types). Of all non-local visitors, 41% stayed overnight in the area.
Several scenarios were used to estimate economic impacts of visitors to museums. Several factors, including primary trip purpose and various sets of assumptions, were used to calculate impacts. For example, depending on the primary purpose for the trip, varying components and percentages of visitors’ trip spending were attributed to the “cultural” portion of the trip. Based on what the researchers deemed the most “reasonable” scenario (Scenario B in the report), $334 million in direct spending was contributed to the state’s economy as a result of museum-based cultural tourist spending.
However, direct spending is not the only impact on the economy. Indirect and multiplier factors, as well as the operational expenditures by the museum itself (for staff, purchase of supplies and services, and other operational and maintenance costs), are contributed to the economy. Because museums provide multiple functions, it is difficult to parcel out how much of these expenditures should be attributed to “cultural tourism.” In one example, the following results are provided: Assuming Scenario B, the $334 million in direct spending supports about 6,500 jobs statewide with a total payroll of $117 million. Including secondary effects, the statewide economic impact of museums is 8,600 jobs, $180 million in personal income and $268 million in value added.
More extensive details and explanations, including results of additional analyses that look at both economic significance and economic impacts of museum operations statewide, are reported in the full study report.
To review the entire report, see: http://www.prr.msu.edu/miteim/MIMuseum_Report.pdf.
For the executive summary, see: http://www.prr.msu.edu/miteim/ExecSumMiMuseums.pdf.
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