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Post Labor Day School Start Helps Michigan Tourism Industry

27 September 2006

Last fall, the Michigan legislature passed a law requiring Michigan's public schools to postpone school start dates to after Labor Day beginning with the 2006-07 school year. According to a survey by the Michigan Hotel, Motel & Resort Association (MHMRA), the new law has fulfilled expectations by boosting the state's tourism industry this past summer.

As part of the survey, MHMRA members compared occupancy levels in the last two weeks of August 2005 and 2006. The results show that 53 percent of hotels had higher or significantly higher occupancy levels this year, and 62 percent of property managers feel the new law has been beneficial for their property's occupancy.

The survey also found that the new law was a factor in increased hotel occupancy over the Labor Day weekend. 43 percent of properties surveyed had higher or much higher occupancy levels over the holiday. In a news release, MHMRA CEO Steve Yencich attributed the weekend success to the later school start date.

"Apparently increased availability of family vacation time leading up to the holiday prompted more people to extend their stay into Labor Day weekend," said Yencich. "Michigan's post-Labor Day school law was a real boost for families, tourism and our state's economy."

With a majority of Michigan's tourism coming from in-state residents, the results of the survey are especially good news since high gas prices, rising air fares and a weakened state economy were expected to hinder overall summer travel.

Michigan's auto industry was also expected to heavily impact the state's tourism industry this summer. The loss of jobs and the reduction of employee and retiree benefits meant that people had less money to spend, and the uncertain future of the industry made people reluctant to spend what money they did have. On the flip side, the lack of disposable income may have led Michigan residents to travel locally in order to stretch their dollar.

Michigan's casino industry has quickly emerged as a key component to the overall tourism industry in Michigan. Although the survey did not specifically address increased gaming activity in the state, it is reasonable to assume the state's wagering outlets received a direct benefit as a result of increased overnight stays at Michigan hotels, many of which are located within a close proximity to casino establishments.

The Michigan Legislature's creative approach to assisting the overall tourism industry with the new public school start date illustrates a potential change in the Michigan mindset that the manufacturing industry is king, and a possible increase in appreciation for the state's tourism industry. With the future of the Michigan economy becoming increasingly dependent on tourism, it is important for Michigan's leadership to continue a proactive process to support the growing industry.

David Waddell
David Waddell is an attorney for Regulatory Management Counselors, P.C. (RMC), which assists businesses in navigating the legislative, regulatory and licensing systems governing Michigan’s commercial and tribal casino industries. He is the co-author of The State of Michigan Gaming Law Legal Resource Book and one of the founders of The Michigan Gaming Newsletter.

David Waddell Websites:

www.michigangaming.com
David Waddell
David Waddell is an attorney for Regulatory Management Counselors, P.C. (RMC), which assists businesses in navigating the legislative, regulatory and licensing systems governing Michigan’s commercial and tribal casino industries. He is the co-author of The State of Michigan Gaming Law Legal Resource Book and one of the founders of The Michigan Gaming Newsletter.

David Waddell Websites:

www.michigangaming.com