If you’re itching to embrace the final weeks of this glorious summer with a vacation Up North, an afternoon at a Lake Michigan beach or a day trip to Mackinac Island, tourism officials across the state are reminding you, dear traveler, to respect safety protocols and plan ahead.
Some popular destinations might not be as busy as usual, but others are swarming with tourists. Don’t expect to be alone. Plenty of people are out and about and many of them are coming from out of state. Practicing social distancing because of the coronavirus pandemic can be difficult in a small souvenir shop or along Mackinac Island’s busy Main Street, where bicyclists, pedestrians and horse-drawn wagons share the narrow road. Wear a mask.
“People are feeling more comfortable about traveling. There are lots of people on the roads,” says Dave Lorenz, vice president of Michigan Travel, part of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. “People are staying relatively close to home, staying in Michigan, more so than ever before. We’re also seeing a lot of people from other states.”
Travel surveys and trends show people are eager to get out and explore, are taking more road trips, especially shorter, regionally based trips and choosing properties with direct outdoor access, including campsites and RV parks, as well as destinations close to nature, where social distancing can be maintained. No matter the destination, safety remains a top priority.
As a result, Travel Michigan this week rolled out the Pure Michigan Pledge, asking businesses, visitors and communities to uphold local safety protocols and travel guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The campaign builds upon the state’s “Two Peninsulas, One Pure Michigan” message of strength and unity across the state during the pandemic.
“We know residents and visitors alike are ready to get back to exploring and making memories all across Michigan -- whether that day is at the lake, a local craft beverage or a hike through the woods,” says Lorenz, who has been touring the state to encourage tourists to wear masks and follow safety measures. “We also know that health is a top priority, and we want people to know the industry is taking safety seriously. If we all work together -- and follow the Pure Michigan Pledge -- we can continue to experience this great state that celebrates the best we have to offer, while staying safe.”
The Pure Michigan Pledge outlines steps to ensure a safe environment for businesses, travelers and communities. The steps were developed with input from more than 350 tourism industry officials from small and large businesses, unions, “every sector you can think of,” Lorenz says, adding many of them had national and international ties, helping the group learn which protocols have worked around the globe.
The impetus is not just on businesses and communities. “Travelers need to do their part to help ensure the safety of their favorite summer spots,” Lorenz says. Travel Michigan has created social stickers and Facebook profile frames for people to demonstrate participation.
Beyond adhering to safety measures, travelers also should prepare for their destination and plan ahead, says Tim Hygh, executive director of Mackinac Island Tourism. Prepare by bringing masks, Clorox wipes, and hand sanitizers but also by organizing your trip itinerary.
With safety protocols and state-mandated restrictions in place, getaways can be challenging. Many businesses have reduced hours; some hotels have limited room availability; and restaurants are often understaffed and have limited dining space.
Analytical data from the U.S. Travel Association reports that families feel the safest when engaged in socially distanced recreational activities that can be enjoyed from anywhere.
Hygh encourages visitors to get outside and pursue activities that allow social distancing, including water sports, such as kayaking, fishing and swimming, as well as hiking, biking, camping and backpacking. Mackinac Island, like other Michigan destinations, offers a multitude of outdoor activities beyond shopping.
Whether coming to the island or heading elsewhere, travelers should research activities ahead of time to ensure access to rentals and to know what to expect. While hotel occupancy on Mackinac Island is lower than normal this summer, many hotels are booked on weekends. Day travel to the island remains strong this summer, Hygh says.
“Think out of the box a little bit. Know where you’re going to have your meals, pack a picnic lunch and find an outdoor area to eat at. Explore an undiscovered park,” he says. “Don’t freak out about traveling. You’ll still be able to shop and do things.”
Justin Winslow, president and CEO of the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association, says the public health safety measures the hospitality industry has taken in the last several months have been extraordinarily successful. The northern lower peninsula area (Region 6), which happens to be the epicenter of Pure Michigan summer travel, boasts one of the lowest positive COVID-19 test percentages in the entire country, he says.
“While our industry welcomes you in, we also encourage guests to show patience with operators. Many are working around the clock to stay up-to-date on new recommendations and mandates and keep in mind the extra time it takes to implement higher sanitation practices between table or hotel room flips,” he says.
It’s a far different summer than anyone can remember, and Mackinac Island’s Hygh offers one more bid of advice:
“Practice the Golden Rule. Be kind to others. You may find something or run into something you don’t expect,” he says. “That’s the reality of the summer of 2020.”
The Pure Michigan Pledge
Be Part of the Solution: We pledge to follow all CDC guidelines and provide guidelines for you to practice as well.
Wear A Mask: We pledge to wear face coverings and ask all visitors to wear masks in appropriate areas.
Practice Social Distancing: We pledge to limit capacity and help you respect the six-foot rule.
Wash Your Hands: We pledge to provide soap and sanitizer for employees and customers.
Keep Things Clean: We pledge to clean high-touch surface and high-traffic areas.
Use Cards: We pledge to reduce contact and accept credit and debit cards whenever possible.
If You’re Sick, Stay Home: We pledge to ensure our staff is healthy and welcome you back when you feel better.
For information on the Pure Michigan Pledge and trip planning, go to michigan.org/puremichiganpledge.