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.
Visit Keweenaw uses the following data sources to estimate visitation and visitor spending: Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) state campground data, Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC).
Checkout Visit Keweenaw’s Visitor Statistics Dashboard for additional information.
In 2022, Calumet Township received $2,300 from Visit Keweenaw to partially fund the purchase of fat tire bike grooming equipment. It was used over the winter of 2022-23 and Marc Norton, trail creator and groomer, says the equipment was a “game changer.”
“The amount of compaction we were able to attain made the trails much more firm,” said Norton. “Even the trail around the Lake where we allow “boot-only” traffic, users were able to walk with little or no breaking through the compacted layer.”
Calumet Lake can be walked in the summer and biked in the winter. Fat tire grooming is improving the options for a winter ride in Calumet. (Marc Norton)
Norton says winter grooming was a learning experience and the team still worked on dealing with large snow falls and drifts that sometimes left trails unusable for days while things were dug out. An angle plow that was also manufactured at the same place as the roller has helped with this. He says the crew is working on a solution for an additional attachment that will make the volunteer hours more productive and get the trails open sooner.
“Once we get grooming down to an art we will hopefully expand the mileage available to be on par with Swedetown and Maasto,” said Norton. “But, more on a beginner/intermediate level.”
Norton says the Calumet Lake vertical stretches would be less intimidating than other recreation areas.
From the beautiful Portage Canal to Isle Royale National Park – you can see it all with U.P. Adventure Company. The new husband-wife adventure guides are ready to make core memories with you this summer.
U.P. Adventure Company can take you to see a sunset along the Keweenaw or all the way to Isle Royale for a multi-day trip. (U.P. Adventure Company)
U.P. Adventure Company, owned by Justin and Lacy Cygan, started in 2022.
“I moved to the Yoop 10 years ago from Green Bay because I fell in love with the unique landscapes, the primitive wilderness and laid-back lifestyle of the locals,” said Lacy Cygan. “From there I met my absolute best friend, and through her I met my wonderful husband, who is an adventurous born and raised local.”
Lacy says the best part of being guides is meeting new people and sharing the joy of new on the boat to increase access to experiences regardless of mobility.
“I firmly believe everyone should book a trip to Isle Royale with us this summer,” said Lacy. “The Hazy J. offers supreme style and comfort when crossing Lake Superior and exploring the nooks and islands that comprise of Isle Royale. A close second is any fishing charter/sight-seeing cruise around the Keweenaw. There is so much history & beauty bestowed on this area for you to explore! The possibilities are endless with U.P. Adventure Company!”
For longer excursions, U.P. Adventure Company can feed you too. On its website, you’ll find information about food packages so you can eat marinated chicken, steak, salads and more on your trips.
You can book a tour with the Cygans online.
On Thursday, May 25, the Visit Keweenaw team presented at the last Keweenaw Chamber of Commerce Lunch & Learn of the year. The group talked about some of the ways it’s been advancing the Keweenaw community in terms of earned media, marketing tactics and the use of short-form video content in getting people to come to your business or destination.
Visit Keweenaw Executive Director Brad Barnett introduces the team and talks about connecting businesses with tourists this summer.
"It was great connecting with local businesses to help them reach visitors who are planning their trips to the Keweenaw this summer,” said Visit Keweenaw Executive Director Brad Barnett. “We're expecting a busy travel season, and we're encouraging businesses to be proactive with marketing their services and experiences."
The Keweenaw Chamber of Commerce holds monthly Lunch & Learns giving different organizations a chance to share insights with the community on connecting customers with your business.
You can be sure to check the schedule for next year’s presentations.
From the Ground Farmer’s Market Collective threw its first-ever Houghton From the Ground Festival on Saturday, May 27 from noon to 6 p.m. on the Houghton Pier.
Event organizers say attendance was impressive, counting a total of 536 people at one point in the afternoon. Sunshine covered the event all day long, making people smile and driving them outside and down to the water.
Houghton From the Ground Festival crafted a new way to kick off spring and summer in the Keweenaw.
“I’ve received lots of positive feedback,” said From the Ground Board Member and Event Organizer Rachael Pressley. “Farmers saying that they are going to plant for more for the event next year, many vendors saying that they sold out, food trucks saying that they sold out, community members saying that they had a great time.”
Pressley says her favorite part was the “summer is here!” atmosphere and that everyone was having a good time together.
Each Memorial Day Weekend, the Keweenaw’s mountain bike trails come to life. Ride the Keweenaw is always a sure sign of warm weather and good times.
Ride the Keweenaw is about experiencing new trails and pushing yourself on your mountain bike. It's also about having fun and making new friends!
“This weekend was great,” said Copper Harbor Trails Club Executive Director Nathan Miller. “The Copper Harbor Enduro was the biggest we’ve ever seen, with nearly 250 registered racers competing for points in the Lake Superior Gravity Series.”
Miller says the first-ever Family Enduro was also well-attended and both kids and their parents enjoyed a fun day on the Michigan Tech Trails.
“The group rides saw a bunch of people come out to explore new trails and see old friends,” said Miller. “The beautiful weather definitely helped make Ride the Keweenaw 2023 so amazing.”
ArtBike was also a hit this year. Miller says there was a steady line stretching out the door of people waiting to see the new ArtBike fundraiser designs. Buying a print or two, or other merch is a way to show love for the trails.
“I think the best part of the weekend was seeing so many people in the park for our Copper Harbor Enduro awards ceremony,” said Miller. “Especially when we announced that eight-year-old Amelia Zoschnick took home first place in the under-16 Women’s Sport category. People were so excited for her! Our trails may be tough at first but with a little practice anyone can crush it out there.”
You can keep in touch with the Copper Harbor Trails Club on Facebook.
On Saturday, May 20, Keweenaw Outdoor Recreation Coalition (KORC) hosted its third-annual KORC Keweenaw Clean-Up. Members say there were more than 75 volunteers who helped collect over 4,500 pounds of trash from spots like High Rock Bay, Keystone Bay, the Mandan Road loop and the streets of Copper Harbor.
KORC holds an annual cleanup in the Keweenaw. This year it brought a significant amount of garbage out of the woods and into proper disposal sites. (KORC)
KORC sends a thank you to all of the clean-up volunteers and invites everyone to its next clean-up event. You can volunteer for the Keweenaw Coastal Clean-Up on Saturday, September 16, 2023.
Visit Keweenaw and KORC both encourage visitors and residents to dispose of all trash and recycling responsibly.
Visit Keweenaw is running a digital campaign promoting responsible recreation and Leave No Trace principles. With ATV season in full swing, it’s important to remember to ride safely and responsibly.
The second video released speaks with Keweenaw County Sheriff Deputy Matt Eberly about riding right and riding within your limits. He speaks about the trail systems in the Keweenaw and what makes them so special and rewarding to ride.
Keep an eye out for more information and videos about responsible recreation and Leave No Trace principles from Visit Keweenaw.
The most recent video speaks with Copper Harbor Trails Club Executive Director Nathan Miller about keeping Copper Harbor’s mountain bike trails in pristine conditions. The videos can be found on Facebook.
This Thursday, June 8, American Queen Voyages will dock at the Houghton Pier around 8:30 a.m. The Ocean Navigator will be the only cruise ship visiting Houghton this summer. It comes again on June 22.
Employees from the city of Houghton, Visit Keweenaw and the Keweenaw Chamber of Commerce will greet passengers and American Queen Voyages staff as they visit the city.
Passengers on the Ocean Navigator will enjoy the Houghton Waterfront on Thursday and can explore the city. They will also visit the Quincy Mine, the A.E. Seaman Mineral Museum and the Carnegie Museum of the Keweenaw.
The 286-foot vessel visits the Keweenaw on its seventh day of a 16-day cruise, stopping at popular Great Lakes Destinations like Houghton, Marquette, Duluth and Thunder Bay, Ontario.
According to the Great Lakes Commission, the Great Lakes Cruise industry is expected to grow by 15% in 2023 accounting for more than $180 million in economic impact.
Check out our website for more information on cruising the Keweenaw.
Canal Run registration is open and runners, walkers and alternative athletes may pick their races. This year, Canal Run is pushing for 1,000 total participants. It would set a record, and be an even bigger reason to celebrate community health. Race Director Angela Luskin says there are already 300-some signed up so far.
Canal Run hopes to promote its alternative athlete races where people wit varying mobilities may compete. (Canal Run/Brockit Inc.)
The Canal Run website, www.canal.run, is a user-friendly platform for participants to easily register and select their preferred races. By offering a variety of race options, including options for walkers, kids and alternative athletes, Canal Run makes sure everyone can participate and contribute to the health of the community.
You can find updates and resources to help you train for Canal Run online.
Pasty Fest is just around the corner and Visit Keweenaw is working hard with Main Street Calumet to make the experience more engaging for all. A group has been meeting regularly to plan, brainstorm and collaborate on new ideas for the festival.
This year marks the 19th Pasty Fest, marking nearly two whole decades the Keweenaw’s zaniest event. Main Street Calumet is currently fundraising and is seeking sponsorships. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested in becoming a Pasty Fest sponsor or would like to be a vendor.
Pasty Fest will invites all to Calumet Aug. 19 to try delicious pasties and watch the Pasty Eating Competition.