Travel Michigan recently published 2021 visitor spending figures from Tourism Economics, revealing that spending by visitors to Kalamazoo County reached an all-time high of $585 million in 2021. This represents growth of 50.9% versus 2020, the second highest rate of growth of the 83 counties in Michigan. Visitor spending in Kalamazoo County also exceeded pre-pandemic levels, with 2021 figures up 16% compared to 2019.
Visitor spending is a key measure of the economic impact of tourism to local economies, and includes all purchases made by travelers during their visits, not just at hotels but also at restaurants, retail shops, attractions and other businesses that support the visitor experience. This spending creates job and entrepreneurship opportunities and helps sustain the businesses that residents enjoy.
“Discover Kalamazoo’s primary goal coming out of the pandemic was to get back to 2019 visitor spending levels by the end of 2023,” said Jane Ghosh, President and CEO for Discover Kalamazoo. “This report from Travel Michigan shows that our community was able to achieve this goal in only one year which is truly remarkable. Congratulations to all our partners across the hospitality industry for the resilience, creativity and hard work which enabled this result.”
Brad Hershbein, Senior Economist at W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research commented that “Of the 18 Michigan counties with at least $250 million in tourism spending in 2019, Kalamazoo County saw faster growth by 2021 than all but one—the summer vacation hub of Petoskey’s Emmet County.”
Led by Kalamazoo County, the Southwest Michigan region had the fastest growth in visitor spending in 2021 of all Michigan regions, with spending up 39.9% versus 2020. Visitor spending for the state of Michigan as whole grew by 27.6% in 2021 but was still 8.6% below 2019 levels.
“This relatively strong demand in Kalamazoo County implies more job creation, not just in tourism jobs but in downstream industries, as well,” said Hershbein.
“Kalamazoo County has so much to offer visitors, with world-class attractions, award-winning restaurants, unique shops and abundant outdoor activities,” said Kevin Catlin, Kalamazoo County Administrator and Controller. “This result showcases the important work of Discover Kalamazoo in leveraging these assets to attract visitors to all corners of our county.”