May 2024 | Industry Newsletter


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:

Visitors on Beach

Summer Travel Prognostication 

With winter in the rearview mirror, we’ve turned our eyes toward the upcoming summer travel season. According to recent survey work by Longwoods International, consumers are eager to travel in the next six months. Approximately 92% of Americans have upcoming travel plans with 30% of consumers expecting to spend more on travel this year than the previous year (while only 14% expecting to spend less). 

If we’ve learned anything from the past five years, it is to expect the unexpected. However, the overall mood in travel sentiment paints a positive outlook for the Keweenaw this summer. And the returning traveler should be warmly welcomed after a disappointing winter season. 

We recently learned how important visitor spending is to our regional economy thanks to a study by the University of Michigan’s Economic Growth Institute. Their research indicates visitor spending generated nearly $178 million in annual economic output in the Keweenaw. This helps to pump in nearly $10 million into local and county government service budgets each year and supports the employment of thousands of residents.

Over the past several months, the Visit Keweenaw team has worked to share why this is the place to be this summer. We’re looking forward to sharing the annual re-opening of many of our favorite local businesses and attractions, and the fresh start of new business owners who are pursuing their dreams in the Keweenaw.  

Winter Drought SBA Loan Training Recap 

On April 19th members of the U.S. Small Business Administration, Michigan Economic Development Corporation, and the UP Small Business Development Center hosted a workshop in Houghton to provide an overview of financial relief programs for businesses adversely impacted by the winter snow drought. The program provides long-term 30-year loans with a four percent interest rate for up to $2 million. 

Houghton County businesses are eligible to apply to the program to request funds to help them stabilize from the winter shortfall. Businesses can apply for loans directly through

The deadline to file for the SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program will end December 26, 2024. Please contact the SBA’s Customer Service Center by email at or by phone at 1-800-659-2955 for further assistance.

a group of people illuminated in night friendly LED lighting look up into the starry night sky

Stargazing at the UP Dark Sky Festival | Photo: Chris Guibert

UP Dark Sky Festival Advances in Second Year

The second-annual Upper Peninsula Dark Sky Festival was a great success for the Keweenaw Dark Sky Park and greater dark skies industry. This year’s festival was more relaxed and folks were just joyous to be in the Keweenaw with good weather and clear skies for stargazing. The Keweenaw Dark Sky Park, headquartered at the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge is an invaluable resource for the growing world of astrotourism.

Notably this year, NASA’s co-founder of “A Picture A Day” and Melissa Kaelin, MI Aurora Chasers group creator presented to attendees. With the range of positive experiences and perfect stargazing weather, Visit Keweenaw knows folks are already planning their trips back for next year. The festival has evolved from its first year to be a more refined product of dark sky culture. With expert speakers, devoted attendees and the perfect environment to see real-life examples of stars, the Milky Way and northern lights, the festival is a recipe for long-term success and is a sustainable event Visit Keweenaw is proud to support.

Visit Keweenaw supplied transportation for a tour of the Calumet Air Force Station, being restored by a group of Michigan Tech Alumni called “Open Skies Project”. The tour was an additional activity available for attendees to see more of the Keweenaw’s attractions and offerings. The festival has a big focus on education and hopes to inspire people to take home what they’ve learned to implement in their own communities.

Dark Sky Attendees Enjoy History on Rocks at Mariner North

Another addition to the Upper Peninsula Dark Sky Festival: History on the Rocks. On the last night of the weekend spectacle, Visit Keweenaw invited attendees and the public to the Mariner for a special presentation. Ranger Lynette Webber from the Keweenaw National Historical Park joined the crew of around 30 dinner guests who were interested in the history of dark skies in Keweenaw. From old maritime techniques for navigation to the creation of lighthouses and docks, the Keweenaw has a long history with dark skies.

Festival attendees were able to grab a bite to eat, have a drink and hear about the Keweenaw’s rich history. It was a purposeful push to get folks to support other Keweenaw businesses like the Mariner while they were in town for the festival. Visit Keweenaw thanks the Mariner for hosting and serving the group that evening, and Ranger Lynette for the excellent presentation.

Visit Keweenaw staff takes a photo at the Keweenaw Land Trust native plant event.Visit Keweenaw staff takes a photo at the Keweenaw Land Trust native plant event.

KLT Earth Day native plant repotting event sees good turnout

On Earth Day, Visit Keweenaw collaborated with the Keweenaw Land Trust (KLT) for a native plant volunteer initiative. Through social media and news recruitment, more than 20 volunteers joined forces to repot hundreds of native plant seedlings destined for areas like Boston Pond and Hungarian Falls. KLT guards over 7,000 acres in the Western Upper Peninsula, including beloved parks and trails in Houghton and Keweenaw County. The group spearheads efforts to maintain public access to these natural spaces. Visit Keweenaw is dedicated to supporting organizations like KLT who help foster a deeper appreciation for the great outdoors and keep the Keweenaw a great place to live and visit.

Leave No Trace Training participants got to participate in a “where we’re all from” activity that helped break the ice.Leave No Trace Training participants got to participate in a “where we’re all from” activity that helped break the ice.

Leave No Trace Training Takes Place at Keweenaw National Historical Park

On Friday, May 3, Visit Keweenaw partnered with the Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Team to teach Keweenaw outdoor recreation businesses how to best communicate Leave No Trace. The training covered the seven Leave No Trace principles and how folks can minimize their impact to natural areas and other people.

At Visit Keweenaw and other member businesses, it’s important to be good stewards of our environment. By conveying proper Leave No Trace messaging, we can help reduce the impact of visitors and locals on natural area trails, campgrounds and attractions. The presenters provided programs and resources from Leave No Trace to help get businesses and staff more involved.

Download a recap infographic for Leave No Trace best practices for your business. 

U of M Tourism Economic Studies Recap

The tourism industry stands as a cornerstone in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula economy, offering an unparalleled escape from urban life and fostering a priceless connection to nature. On April 17, researchers from the University of Michigan’s Economic Growth Institutes presented on the value and impact of tourism in the Western Upper Peninsula. This six-county region includes Keweenaw, Houghton, Baraga, Ontonagon Iron and Gogebic Counties.

The study found in 2023, visitors spent roughly $360 million across the Western UP. This is spent on things like restaurants, lodging, stores and recreation outfitters. In terms of how many visitors, data suggests that around 2 million travelers visited the region collectively last year.

Most Keweenaw visitors come from the Midwest and downstate Michigan. In the Keweenaw, there’s been a continuous uptick in visitation since 2019. The Keweenaw is an affordable destination, providing ample free outdoor activities that leave visitors with more dollars to spend on the hospitality industry. It continues to remain competitive among destinations in the Midwest, and further that offer outdoor activities, access to dark skies and small town comfort.

Destination Northern Ontario visits the Keweenaw

Visit Keweenaw welcomed Destination Northern Ontario, an esteemed destination marketing organization (DMO), for their highly anticipated Best Practices in Tourism Mission. This was the second trip Destination Northern Ontario has made to better understand excellent practices in tourism in successful example communities. The Keweenaw was selected as it is more akin to Northern Ontario than other larger destinations like Chicago or Green Bay.

The visit was significant because it underscores the Keweenaw’s reputation as a prime example of successful tourism. This offers insight and inspiration for Destination Northern Ontario and reaffirms the region’s position as a source of invaluable lessons in tourism management and promotion.

Hospitality Staff training opportunity Coming up June 10

Visit Keweenaw is partnering with the Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association (MRLA) and Michigan Works! to offer a FREE Customer Service Bootcamp in Houghton on June 10 for area employees. This is an opportunity for staff to sharpen those customer service skills as we prepare for the summer tourism season.

Lunch will be provided at all trainings, and participants will receive a certificate of completion for Gold Star Customer Service and a ServSafe Food Handler certification. 

This will be a highly interactive training to help provide excellent customer service. It will also help visitors learn more about your local tourist attractions. The deadline to register is May 20. Register today to ensure your free spot!

visitor guide sits on a map of the keweenaw peninsula

Pick up this year’s latest visitor guide from Visit Keweenaw.

2024 Adventure Guides to inspire Keweenaw travelers

Fresh off the press – the Visit Keweenaw 2024 Adventure Guides are in now! Stop by and get a box to stock up at your business. The Visit Keweenaw adventure guides are an invaluable resource giving visitors insight into outdoor recreation offerings for all abilities, and places to eat and drink.

This year, the guide content was produced heavily in-house, allowing the team to put a personal touch on the product. This starting point can give a family, solo traveler or even a local something new and fun to do in the Keweenaw. It includes a map, plenty of suggestions on where to go and what to see.

Visit Keweenaw creates, publishes and distributes a fresh Adventure Guide each year. The thousands of guides are sent to neighboring stops like the welcome center in Harvey by Marquette and the St. Ignace rest stop by the Mackinac Bridge.

KORC Keweenaw Clean-Up 2024

KORC Group to clean up the Keweenaw May 18

The Keweenaw Outdoor Recreation Coalition is cleaning up the Keweenaw on Saturday, May 18. The start will be at 9:30 a.m. in Copper Harbor, but there will be several other starting locations like the Bete Grise Preserve and Brunette Park. People should bring their collected trash to Copper Harbor by 12:30 p,n, for a photo op and community cookout.

Find more details and where to participate here.


Lake Superior Ice Wanes under a Spring Sunrise

Colton Haataja’s #1 winning photo.

Visit Keweenaw announces spring photography contest winners

The first-place winner of Visit Keweenaw’s Spring Photography Contest is Colton Haataja with his stunning shot titled “Lake Superior Ice Wanes under a Spring Sunrise.” The photo was taken at Brunette Park on Gay Lac La Belle Road by Haataja. These contest results were published all over the local news as well as

Second Place: Chris Guibert with “Spring Thaw in Bete Grise Preserve”

Third Place: John Lothian’s “Lights and Falls”

Visit Keweenaw thanks everyone who participated and enjoyed viewing the photos from the contest. There were nearly 80 submissions to choose from. The first place winner won $150 Keweenaw Cash and a framed print of their photo from the Print Shop in Houghton.

Visit Keweenaw wraps up snowfall guessing competition

Visit Keweenaw wrapped up its snowfall guessing competition on May 1, after no late season snowfall – it was time to call it. Stephanie Duncan of Calumet was the closest guess to the season’s total. She guessed within a quarter of an inch.

Before last winter, Visit Keweenaw ran a snow total guessing competition. It appeared on local news outlets and websites like MLive and received more than 750 responses. With an iffy winter that resulted in about 50% of normal totals, anyone’s guess was fair game.

Visit Keweenaw hires 2 new staff members

Please welcome two new staff members to Visit Keweenaw: Amanda Makela and Marielle Raasio. Amanda joins the team as our new content manager. Amanda is the owner of 2nd Sandbar Productions and moved to the Keweenaw with her husband and daughter in 2018. Amanda loves to spend her free time enjoying the beauty of the Keweenaw (especially Misery Bay)!

Marielle joins the team as a sustainability coordinator. She is a 4th-year student at Michigan Tech studying Policy and Community Development. Marielle looks to gain her masters in Environmental Energy and Policy from MTU and continue her ESL teaching career abroad post graduation.

Ride the Keweenaw coming up soon

Registration is open for Ride the Keweenaw taking place over Memorial Day Weekend. This three-days of non-stop mountain biking is looked forward to by many. The weekend kicks off with a thrilling ride through the Adventure Mine and makes its way north to Copper Harbor by Sunday for a downhill enduro. The weekend ends with unveiling the latest batch of ArtBike posters at the Mariner North.

You can still sign up for Ride the Keweenaw!

Locavore 2024 Poster

Locavore Festival to kick off market season in Houghton May 25

Locavore Festival will kick off the Houghton farmers market season for the second year on the pier. This year it comes with a new name. Locavore: noun; a person who celebrates locally grown food, art and music. In 2023, the From the Ground Farmer’s Market Collective largely handled the organization and vendors with other details.

This year, the City of Houghton is putting on the festival with Visit Keweenaw and the Chamber of Commerce. Bands Fast Car and Dead North will set the mood for summer on the Portage Canal playing 90s pop and bluegrass. Come hungry for the Dog Father and Matador food trucks.

Locavore is Saturday, May 25 from 1-3 p.m. on the Houghton Pier.


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