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Greater Lansing Convention & Visitors Bureau celebrates record-breaking 2016

Because it sprawls across the region and often happens in small, but significant slices, the Lansing region’s travel and tourism economy is one of the area’s quieter economic drivers.

But not this year. Celebrating record-breaking hotel occupancy, with room rates topping more than $100 a night, and proclaiming a new study pegging the sector’s economic input at $1.1 billion, the Greater Lansing Convention and Visitors Bureau (GLCVB) is talking milestones.

“This was truly an historic year for the Lansing region,” said GLCVB President and CEO, Jack Schripsema. In a buoyant annual meeting with a record turnout, Schripsema, read off a list of accomplishments and progress that, with broad community support, sets the Lansing region apart from other tourist destinations in Michigan.

In 2016, lodging occupancy was 64 percent, compared with 61 percent in 2015 and 58 percent in 2014. And the average rate in 2016 increased to $101.82 per night. In 2015, it was $98.28. GLCVB said the region drew more than 4.8 million visitors last year with direct spending topping $602 million. Altogether the segment supports 11,000 local jobs accounting for $336 million in wages. 

“For the first time in the history of the GLCVB, lodging partners in the region reported over one million hotel rooms consumed for the year. It’s an indicator of the future demand we will see in our region,” Schripsema said. He boasted that the Lansing region, for the second year in a row, topped the Michigan average occupancy rate of 60.7 percent and that it was closing in on the national average of 65.5 percent.

“It is higher rates,” he added, “that allows the lodging industry to maintain and modernize its facilities.” The industry expects the average daily rate to increase at a modest rate.

The GLCVB tracks its success by measuring hotels, restaurants, meetings and events in Lansing and the surrounding counties. In 2017, it is focusing on increasing visitors to the region, building summer tourism and enhancing its collaboration with Michigan State University.

For 2017, Mark Alley, vice president of Global Protective Services and Public Affairs at Emergent BioSolutions, will chair the Bureau’s board of directors. He predicts slow but steady growth for the tourism industry, acknowledging that big gains are less likely than the sustainable efforts that contributed to the million-plus hotel room marker. But he suggested that two developments – a second hotel in downtown Lansing and the long-delayed casino attached to the Lansing Center – could reshape the region’s tourist industry.

Lansing’s 30-year non-compete agreement with the Radisson Hotel has ended, clearing the way for incentive packages that could lure a developer to downtown properties. The lack of hotel space in the city has long been viewed as a challenge in luring larger conventions. The casino project remains a long shot and U.S. Interior Department authorization, a needed first step, has languished.

During its upbeat annual meeting, the GLCVB acknowledged the strength of its mid-size and steady approach to travel and tourism in a series of Community Champions, volunteer and partnership awards. The Bureau recognized organizations as diverse as the Great Lakes Planetarium Association and Lansing Derby Vixens roller-derby team for their efforts in bringing convention and event business to the greater Lansing area.

Singled out for special recognition were two groups who received Milestone Awards for 50 years of meeting in Lansing: the Michigan Assisted Living Association and a popular favorite with the Bureau, the Great Lakes Ice Cream & Fast Food Association.

COMMUNITY CHAMPIONS

Huey-Wen Lin, Ph.D., Alexei Bazavov, Ph.D., Andrea Shindler, Ph.D. International Symposium on Lattice Field Theory: The 36th Annual International Symposium on Lattice Field Theory will be held at the Kellogg Center in July 2018 and will attract more than 500 participants.

Great Lakes Planetarium Association: In October 2018, Dr. Shannon Schmoll, the Director of Michigan State University’s Abrams Planetarium, will host 200 colleagues at the Henry Center and showcase MSU’s newly enhanced planetarium. The very first meeting of the Great Lakes Planetarium Association took place in East Lansing in 1964. 

James Tiedje, Ph.D., International Symposium on the Environmental Dimension of Antibiotic Resistance: In August 2017, East Lansing and MSU’s Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics will welcome 250 global researchers to discuss the most recent research and the implications for human health caused by the threat of multidrug resistant strains of pathogens.

Kathie Dunbar, Hawk Island Triathlon: This unique sprint triathlon was the first of its kind in Michigan and was the first race of any kind in Michigan to be certified “Green.” Over the past 10 years, the event has seen more than 5,500 athletes participate.

Lansing Derby Vixens: In Aug. 2016, the Derby Vixens hosted the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association D2 International Playoffs, bringing 10 teams and hundreds of athletes from across the globe to the Summit Sports and Ice Complex.

Scott Dane, Capital Area Soccer League: Dane was responsible for championing inclusive play in the region, developing the Beacon Field project and organizing the CASL’s largest fundraising event, the Capital City Classic, which attracted more than 100 teams from across Michigan and the surrounding states.

SPORTS PARTNER OF THE YEAR

The National United Wrestling Association for Youth: In July 2016, NUWAY hosted more than 2,000 wrestlers from 22 states at the Lansing Center for the “Grand River Rumble,” the first wrestling event ever held at the Lansing Center.

VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR

Nancy Simpson: In 2016, Simpson served as co-chair for the Eastern Great Lakes Figure Skating Championships, an event that drew 600 skaters to Suburban Ice in East Lansing.

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Mickey Hirten

Mickey Hirten

Mickey Hirten is an award winning writer and editor. He has been executive editor of the Lansing State Journal, the Burlington Free Press in Vermont, and was the financial editor and a columnist for the Baltimore Evening Sun. He is the current president of the Michigan Press Association. His wife, Maureen Hirten, is director of the Capital Area District Library.