The Keweenaw’s visitor economy plays a vital role in our region’s quality of life and future prosperity. To keep local leaders and stakeholders current on issues impacting the industry, Visit Keweenaw created this monthly newsletter to share information on topics such as economic trends, destination and community investments, and other pertinent news.
We hope you find this a valuable resource to stay up to date on the Keweenaw’s visitor economy and encourage you to share it with parties you think would benefit from the information. As always, we look forward to sharing what makes the Keweenaw a special community to both live in and visit.
IN THIS NEWSLETTER:
Visit Keweenaw estimates for 2022, more than 400,000 overnight visitors stayed in the Keweenaw, contributing approximately $140 million to the local economy. While the total number of visitors to the region is estimated to be about the same as the previous year, it is estimated that spending increased by as much as 35% compared to the prior year.
Visit Keweenaw’s data suggests that total visitation numbers remained flat for 2022 compared to 2021 at an estimated 403,000 overnight visitors for the year. 2022 experienced a strong first quarter (January through March) which helped to make up for a softer second (April through June) and third quarter (July through September) which were limited due to declines in estimated overnight camping in the region’s three state parks.
While the total number of annual visitors year-over-year is estimated to be roughly the same – Visit Keweenaw estimates that visitor spending significantly increased. Visit Keweenaw estimates that in 2022, visitors contributed approximately $140 million to the local economy through lodging, food and beverage, recreation, retail and transportation expenses compared to the previous year’s estimate of $103 million.
The growth is attributed to the increased number of visitors opting for non-camping lodging accommodations and subsequent higher spending on local amenities. While there was a drop in overnight visitors staying in the region’s state campgrounds (partially due to construction projects), more visitors stayed in short-term rental (STR) accommodations, making up the difference. Visitors who stayed in STRs or hotels/motels increased by approximately 7% year-over-year.
Lodging represents the single largest spending category for visitors at an estimated $41 million followed by food & beverage ($35 million), transportation ($25 million), retail ($23 million) and recreation ($16 million).
With the increase in Keweenaw visitation over the past several years, the need for overnight lodging has also increased. This past year, the Keweenaw’s overnight accommodations market grew by nearly 19%. When comparing room nights available to overnight visitors year over year (the number of rooms available multiplied by the number of nights available to rent), the Keweenaw’s accommodations market increase from approximately 371,000 in 2021 to 441,000 in 2022.
"This is our best estimate using the data available to us," shared Visit Keweenaw Executive Director Brad Barnett. "Inflation certainly played a role in visitor's increased spending but shifts in lodging demand lead us to believe that spending in other areas, like retail and dining increased as well.”
The Western Upper Peninsula Planning & Development Region (WUPPDR) is studying the economic impact of tourism in the Keweenaw. The study began over the winter and runs for a year. It will help researchers understand the economic impacts of tourism in the western U.P.
Researchers will understand tourism draws by season, spending patterns and other factors. Visit Keweenaw will use this data to upgrade its Tourism Statistics Dashboard and improve its updates to the community about the visitor economy.
The study is funded by the U.S. Economic Development Administration and is being led by the University of Michigan Economic Growth Institute, WUPPDR and Visit Keweenaw.
Visit Keweenaw uses the following data sources to estimate visitation and visitor spending: Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) state campground data and from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC).
See Visit Keweenaw’s Visitor Statistics Dashboard for additional information.
Each year, Visit Keweenaw gives Destination Development Awards to projects in the Keweenaw that will improve the visitor and resident experience. These can be additions like interpretive signage, construction on pavilions in parks or even infrastructure development to trail systems.
So far, Visit Keweenaw have given more than $45,000 in Destination Development Awards this year. Some of those projects are already underway in the Keweenaw Area.
A project breaking ground this month is signage on the Chassell Historic Trail. Volunteers and members with the township placed informative signs near the Sturgeon River, funded through Destination Development Awards with Visit Keweenaw. The signs share relevant information about the river, and invite people to learn more about a unique piece of the Keweenaw.
The signage is at a river entry area, where a canoe/kayak launch floating dock and gangway will be installed. Chassell Township plans to formally open the Chassell Historic Trail soon. This comes in good timing for this year’s Copper Country Strawberry Festival on July 7 and 8.
New signage was placed on the Chassell Historic Trail near the Sturgeon River as part of the Destination Development awards.
In June, local landowners and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) requested Visit Keweenaw's assistance to inform residents and visitors about legal access changes to Montreal Falls in Keweenaw County. The Visit Keweenaw team published an updated guide on visiting the scenic site. To date, the guide's post on Facebook as reached nearly 68,000 viewers, and the blog has been read more than 3,000 on VisitKeweenaw.com
The adventure to Montreal Falls takes you on a journey of excitement and wonder. You’ll see breathtaking views of Keweenaw County but make sure you try it during the summer for firm trails and no snowmelt.
Montreal Falls is a rugged nature area. Follow the directions above to access the area safely and legally.
Tom Wright, manager at the Quincy Mine says the attraction is expecting to set another record summer. In 2021, the demand for tours increased exponentially as pandemic travel restrictions decreased.
“Our admissions for May were $19,840,” said Wright. “So, our admissions in May were up 31% over last year. Even though we had slightly fewer people, with the mix of tickets we were up 31% in just admissions.”
Wright says the overall increase in visitors has largely been due to word-of-mouth referrals. His data suggests that social media accounted for a slim 2% of visitors. So, he hopes to grow that and keep on track for a record summer.
“We’re doing some advertising with TV6,” said Wright. “We’ve got a person who’s going to be working on our own digital media. Last year we opened up an online booking system. That’s been huge. Last year we opened the online booking at the end of April [and] we had $12,445 in advanced [bookings].”
Quincy Mine offers underground tours and expects a record breaking year of tours.
Staff are excited to welcome guests for a brand new “Lights Out” mine tour where people will wear headlamps for light in the mine. If you haven’t been down to see what it’s like when your guide turns out the lights for a bit, it’s dark!
Wright says putting this tour on at 5:00 helps keep tours filled all day long at the mine.
“It’s a destination, and it’s an experience,” said Wright.
The Quincy Mine is also fine-tuning a new livestream webcam for people to take in remote views of the Portage Canal and the mining hill from the top of its shaft house.
Main Street Calumet’s Pasty Fest 2023 is proud to announce the world’s first Pasty Art Prize Competition sponsored by Visit Keweenaw. Artists from across the Upper Peninsula have an opportunity to submit pasty-themed artwork. The pieces and installations will be displayed in local Calumet businesses, allowing customers and community members to explore Calumet’s gorgeous, historic downtown and vote on their favorite pieces. The voting period will last for 30 days, and the top three pieces will be announced on Saturday, Aug. 19 during Pasty Fest 2023 in Calumet. The 1st place winner will receive $300 in Keweenaw Cash, 2nd place takes $150 and 3rd will receive $50.
Main Street Calumet's Pasty Fest will hold the world's first Past Art Prize Competition.
Pasty Fest 2023 is excited to partner with Upper Peninsula artists of all ages to explore our food heritage through art. The competition gives individuals the opportunity to express their connections to pasties in a unique way. The world’s first Pasty Art Prize Competition will engage the local community and drive exploration of our local small businesses and shops by displaying each piece in one of many downtown venues.
“The Keweenaw is home to many talented artists,” said Leah Polzien, Main Street Calumet executive director. “Creating the Pasty Fest Art Prize competition is a way of viewing the pasty and all its cultural significance, through a creative lens. Plus, it’s just going to be fun to see how the topic will be interpreted.”
The Pasty Fest Team is very excited to share the celebration of the pasty in downtown Calumet with residents and visitors alike! For more information or to secure vendor spaces for artisan, non-profit or other business vendors, visit www.mainstreetcalumet.com/pasty-fest.html or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
American Queen Voyages docked at the Houghton Pier for the last time this summer on Thursday, June 22. The Ocean Navigator stopped on the Portage Canal on June 8 and June 22 as part of a 16-day roundtrip cruise from Chicago. There were only two cruise ship visits to the Keweenaw this summer.
The Ocean Navigator visited Houghton, MI twice this summer.
Passengers on the 286-foot Ocean Navigator enjoyed the Houghton Waterfront and saw the city during their visit. They toured the Quincy Mine, the A.E. Seaman Mineral Museum and the Carnegie Museum of the Keweenaw.
The Great Lakes Cruise industry is expected to continue to grow. Visit Keweenaw, along with other community leaders, will continue to help bring cruises down the Portage Canal.
Bridgefest 2023 was an incredible success. It filled Houghton and Hancock all weekend long, drawing many to Ray Kestner Park for fun with their friends and family.
Bridgefest weekend took place over Father's Day weekend and was a huge success. | Brockit Inc.
“On behalf of the 2023 Bridgefest committee, we would like to take this opportunity to THANK all of our supporters, volunteers, sponsors, vendors, musicians, businesses and organizations that came together to make Bridgefest happen,” said Katie Schlief, Keweenaw Chamber of Commerce manager. “We had record attendance at over 10,000 clicked at one gate during the weekend’s festivities, with a record number of vendors, parade unites, numerous added events to the schedule, and a grand finale fireworks show over the Portage Canal to wrap up Bridgefest 2023.”
Schlief says she’s thrilled with how Bridgefest turned out this year.
Looking for an incredible experience in Copper Harbor, or on Isle Royale? Keweenaw Adventure Company (KAC) is the place to go for your outdoor recreation needs.
“A lot of folks come up here for the first time,” said Raymond Landsburg, KAC owner. “They may or may not have gone kayaking before. They want to get up and get out in the lake. Sometimes they’ve heard stories that the lake is cold, or the weather so what we do is we provide an all-in package. So, we get you out there in a sea kayak and wet suits and all the proper equipment.”
A guided paddle with KAC is good for beginners, as well as experienced folks on the water. The guides with KAC will help you get in and out of your boat, as well as teach you how to maneuver it. You can paddle around the Copper Harbor Marina and then out for a bit of open Lake Superior paddling, depending on the weather. It’s an incredible experience for visitors and locals alike.
Keweenaw Adventure Company offers guided sea kayak tours suitable for all skill levels.
KAC rents kayaks to people, but not for use on Lake Superior. Consider a guided tour to see the big lake from a kayak. Paddling is not the only experience you can find at KAC.
“Although we rent bikes and most people rent bikes and go up the hill,” said Landsberg. “We also do guided mountain biking tours. It’s something for any skill level. We don’t have a pre-planned route, we just get folks together with a guide. The guide kind of ask folks to assess what skill level they’re at.”
Once you’re comfortable riding, you can go off on your own adventures. It’s a great place to start and the staff are friendly and ready to help you have a memorable time.
The Copper Country Strawberry Festival is July 7-8 and make sure you try the famous strawberry shortcake! The fun happens at Chassell Township Park annually on the Friday and Saturday after the Fourth of July.
You’ll find craft and vendor booths, a delicious fish boil, live music and the crowning of the Copper Country Strawberry Festival Queen over the weekend.
Check out the full list of events here.
Canal Run is July 19 and it’s not too late to register or volunteer. Many who volunteer at Canal Run come back year after year to help. Hancock fills with energy from the finish line at the Quincy Green to McLain State Park where the 10-mile begins. Volunteers are needed to organize the finish chute, help with timing, controlling traffic and much more.
This year, the Canal Run Gives Back program is donating to 31 Backpacks. The donation program has given $20,000 to non-profit organizations in the surrounding counties. It donated $5,000 to Omega House in 2021 and $5,000 to Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly in 2022.
Find more upcoming events by visiting our Keweenaw events calendar.