A new study released by Experience Grand Rapids shows a $38.5 million economic impact from beer tourism last year.
The impact measured in 2015 was $12.2 million.
The study by Anderson Economic Group shows the numerous breweries in Grand Rapids and Kent County attracted more than 94,000 tourists. Grand Rapids alone has nearly 40 breweries.
The methodology remained similar to the 2015 study. The same questionnaire and random survey sampling were conducted for several months between October 2018 and July 2019.
Beer tourists were defined as those respondents who said craft beer was the primary reason for visiting and who either live outside of West Michigan or live in West Michigan but were choosing to stay at a local hotel or motel.
During the study year, beer tourists spent $23.9 million in Kent County on craft beer, accommodations, food, transportation and other spending.
The study said 25.3% of beer tourists came from outside Michigan and 40% of beer tourists stayed in a hotel or motel in the Grand Rapids area.
Beer tourists supported 378 jobs and $9.9 million in earnings in the county, which is an increase from the 2015 study that showed 171 jobs and $3.3 million in earnings were supported in the county.
Some brewery owners, including Max Trierweiler of The Mitten Brewing Company and Dave Engbers of Founders Brewing Company, consider Experience Grand Rapids to be a key driver of beer tourism in Kent County.
“The idea of ‘Beer City, USA’ didn’t happen overnight,” Trierweiler said. “Experience Grand Rapids realized that we have great beer being brewed in GR and thought that we should celebrate it.”
Experience Grand Rapids helped push for the Beer City recognition through Examiner.com and then created promotions like the Beer City Ale Trail, Beer Month GR and the Brewsader Passport program.
Alongside marketing efforts, Experience Grand Rapids has utilized its brewery partners to help with convention promotion.
Engbers said he has exhibited his company alongside the Experience Grand Rapids sales team at the American Society of Association Executives.
“I’ve watched firsthand how the association executives from all over the U.S. have positively responded to Grand Rapids as a craft beer destination.”
Hotels have embraced the moniker of “Beer City,” as well, including the Country Inn & Suites East Beltline. Ed Wilson, the hotel’s general manager, said his staff does its best to accommodate beer tourists and take advantage of their business, including by selling Beer City merchandise at the front desk and offering a Beer City Ale Trail map to guests.