Encouraging the Growth of Lansing
“We’ve done a radio spot for Lansing that is voiced by Tim Allen,” said Tracy Padot, vice president of marketing communications for the Greater Lansing Convention & Visitors Bureau (GLCVB). “That’s [been] running in Toledo from May through July.”
“We’re doing that in collaboration with Travel Michigan and its program Pure Michigan,” explained W. Lee Hladki, president and CEO for the GLCVB. “The marketing department has a huge amount of responsibility making sure our information is on the trains and buses and in the welcome centers, but they also strategically develop new markets for us to cultivate awareness of Greater Lansing.”
“We have a dynamic sales staff bringing business to Lansing,” added Julie Pingston, GLCVB’s senior vice president. “We have specific markets we target that are strong for our region, businesses that fit our region. Some of those markets include sports, religion, and probably one of our strongest ones is the state association market, because we are the headquarters for so many associations, and our convenient location is a strong factor in those kinds of groups bringing their events to our region.”
While the natives may not know it, tourism contributes greatly to the tri-county area.
“It is not well understood in terms of its overall impact, but tourism in this community is a major economic driver,” Hladki stated. “The economic impact is consistently around a half a billion dollars a year. It creates 7,500 jobs, and those run the gamut from seasonal part-time work all the way up to thousands of full-time jobs with benefits. We’re fortunate because of the educational institutions and that we’re a state capital, which maintains a flow of business and leisure visitors, keeping those jobs stable.”
The majority of Lansing’s visitors drive more than four hours to get here, according to Padot.
“As soon as we find a group that would like to look at Lansing for their event, our sales department puts together a whole package with our hospitality partners,” Pingston explained. “They might want to include a golf outing or an off-site function or activities for people who come who aren’t actually participating in the event. Then our services team works with them from that moment until their event has come and gone to make sure that everything goes well while they’re here, providing them with any resources they might need in helping them plan their event.”
“In a nutshell, we are a concierge service,” said Hladki. “Our job is to connect the visitors to the resources that they’re interested in so they have a positive experience.”
“Our mission is to get those visitors to come and visit our community, spend those dollars here, and then go on to wherever it is they live,” noted Padot.
“With a deep desire to come back,” Hladki added.
As a nonprofit agency with no affiliation with any government agencies, the GLCVB receives its funding from assessments on local hotel rooms, member fees and sponsorships. The bureau has a membership of 420 local businesses and has been instrumental in the newly formed Team Lansing Foundation.
“We’ve developed a charitable organization that’s affiliated with the convention bureau to promote destination development,” Hladki explained. “There are projects that we hope to reinforce or be a catalyst to in terms of helping develop our community, which would be everything from helping to beautify a community to the larger work where we’re a participant in the fundraising for the new Broad museum at MSU. We carefully try to select projects we feel will advance the value of tourism in our community. It’s a small foundation at this point, but we hope it can grow and bring in grants.”
One of the area’s biggest tourist attractions is Michigan State University with sporting events, commencements and livestock shows. The state Capitol is the other big draw, and the Impression 5 Science Center attracts a large number of visitors as well.
“Thousands of fourth graders visit the state Capitol each year, and then the families come back as a whole, either because of their quick experience here at the Capitol or to [also] see the zoo and our museums and have a whole-day or weekend experience,” said Pingston.
There are even organizations where members have to prove they have visited all 50 state capitals, which obviously brings them here. But one of the GLCVB’s biggest annual events is for Lansing-area residents.
“Be a Tourist in Your Own Town is an event that we created to make residents more aware of everything that happens in their community,” Pingston explained. “They can go and see what we have, so when they have friends and family visiting, they don’t then leave our community. They’ve experienced it first-hand in one day, and they can’t even accomplish everything in that one day, but they’re set for activities for the whole summer. We keep adding new things for people to experience.”
Destinations on the tour include sites like the museums at MSU, the Turner Dodge Mansion, Woldumar Nature Center; art galleries; and local businesses, such as Preuss Pets, Van Atta’s Greenhouse and Burgdorf’s Winery.
“This is a very affordable location for visiting,” Hladki added. “Access to many of our attractions is free or at minimal cost, so for families of all socioeconomic levels, it’s a very good place to visit.”
The area also attracts its share of conventions. This July, Lansing will be hosting U.S. Africa Sister Cities, which will bring people in from all over the United States, as well as from African nations, and the annual ORGPRO conference will be held here as well.
“That’s put on by the Michigan Society of Association Executives, and it will bring in about 350 meeting planners from across the state,” said Pingston. “It’s the first time that Lansing is hosting this conference, so we are very excited.”
So whether you’re in Union Station, Toledo, or maybe even Africa, you’ll be sure to find the GLCVB’s Greater Lansing Visitor Guide promoting your hometown.
W. Lee Hladki, President/CEO
Julie Pingston, Senior Vice President
Tracy Padot, Vice President Marketing Communications
Greater Lansing Convention & Visitors Bureau