Holland Half Into Tourism Campaign

    HOLLAND — Taking the glass partly full rather than empty, organizers of the $1 million Michigan’s West Coast tourism campaign have welcomed the Holland Area Convention & Visitors Bureau’s limited participation for this year.

    The partial joining of the campaign last month raises hopes that the Holland bureau will join its counterparts in Grand Rapids, Grand Haven and Muskegon and fully participate in 2004.

    “We’re moving forward based on that,” said Steve Wilson, president of the Grand Rapids/Kent County Convention & Visitors Bureau, which is spearheading the West Coast campaign.

    “We certainly remain hopeful,” Wilson said. “We want to have them on board and we’re doing everything we can to accommodate them, and we’re keeping the door open to the future.”

    The annual West Coast marketing campaign seeks to boost West Michigan’s tourism trade. It’s designed to promote Grand Rapids in key Midwestern markets as a place for conventions and meetings and the entire region as a vacation destination.

    Directors at the Holland Area CVB joined their colleagues in Grand Haven and Saugatuck late last year and withdrew from the campaign, claiming its scope had changed from their original understanding of marketing Grand Rapids as a convention destination. The complaints centered on the change toward targeting the leisure travel market in the same Midwestern cities where the lakeshore bureaus already promote their communities.

    The Grand Haven-Spring Lake Visitors Bureau later rejoined the initiative after organizers agreed to the formation of a regional marketing committee that will consist of representatives from Grand Rapids and each participating lakeshore community.

    Holland Area CVB directors in March opened the door toward returning to the campaign on a limited basis, provided certain conditions were met.

    While still not endorsing the campaign, the bureau’s board of directors agreed to have the organization handle inquiries received about Holland via West Coast marketing efforts. The board would then re-evaluate its involvement in 2004.

    Partial participation in the campaign and having two seats on the marketing committee will give the Holland Area CVB an opportunity to gain a better understanding about how the process works and how marketing decisions are made, Executive Director Sally Laukitis said.

    By offering limited participation, the Holland bureau can take a year to track the campaign and gauge how well West Coast works, she said. It will allow the Holland bureau to also see whether West Coast fits into broader marketing strategies that include cooperating with several other Lake Michigan port communities and the state on the Beachtowns campaign that promotes shoreline destinations.

    “We’re only there as observers. We need to track this campaign and we need to track the results,” Laukitis said. “We need to observe and see how our numbers shake out and see if we can join them next year.”

    The Grand Rapids/Kent County Convention & Visitors Bureau is funding the West Coast campaign through $450,000 of its own money, $250,000 from the state’s travel bureau, Travel Michigan, and $250,000 that organizers hope to raise from the private sector beginning next month.

    The bureau so far has raised $100,000 of the goal, Wilson said. The goal includes generating 60 percent of the amount from Kent County and 20 percent each from Ottawa and Muskegon counties, he said.

    “We’re pleased but we still have a ways to go,” Wilson said of the campaign’s results thus far.

    Wilson will discuss the campaign further this week when he addresses the Holland Area Chamber of Commerce’s Early Bird Breakfast at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday at the Maas Center, at Columbia Avenue and 12th Street on the Hope College campus.           

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