Lodging occupancy rates in the Traverse City area are approaching pre-pandemic levels, but are not fully recovered according to a report Traverse City Tourism presented to its members at an annual meeting yesterday.
Lodging occupancy in Grand Traverse County was at 60.2-percent in 2022*, just shy of the 62.3-percent experienced before the 2019 COVID outbreak. The occupancy reflects a sharp improvement from the worst of the pandemic when occupancy was at 45.6-percent.
“We still have work to do, but we’ve come a long way,” said Trevor Tkach (Tah-koch), Traverse City Tourism President. “Travel is such a critical part of the local economy, so when we see this improvement, it benefits every small, locally owned business in the region.” Tkach said tourism has a $1.3 billion economic impact to the region and generates over 8,500 jobs, citing a report based on 2021 visitor numbers.
Travel to the region has been bolstered by a partnership between Traverse City Tourism and Cherry Capital Airport (TVC). Over the past decade the two organizations have collaborated to attract flights to 17 non-stop markets including Chicago, New York, Washington DC, Florida and Arizona. “With the help of Traverse City Tourism we’ve been able to increase the number of passengers by over 75-percent,” said Kevin Klein, TVC airport Director. “In the past decade we’ve attracted 4.4-million passengers. These guests stay longer and contribute more to the economy than those who drive here. Local residents also benefit with access to these increased flights.”
One of the bigger success stories is taking place in Benzie County, Tkach told members. Benzie County chose to work with Traverse City Tourism to promote the area in early 2020. Since then, spending at the lodging facilities has increased by over 89-percent, from the low mark of the pandemic. “They have such a great story to tell with downtown Frankfort, Sleeping Bear Dunes and Crystal Mountain,” said Tkach. “Their story just adds to the regional appeal for travelers.”
Tkach noted that occupancy will soon be impacted by the addition of new lodging offerings in the market. Last week the new Tru by Hilton opened with 90 rooms, and up to seven new properties have either broken ground or are being planned in the next three years. Tkach said Traverse City Tourism will continue with an emphasis to promote the region in the fall, winter and spring months to help fill those rooms and support local businesses with sustainable year-round demand.
More information about travel to Traverse City is available at http://traversecitytourism.