Washtenaw County tourism bureau uses community survey to strengthen marketing plan

Destination Ann Arbor is preparing to create a comprehensive marketing plan that will strengthen public awareness of Washtenaw County as a hotspot for travel. 

The move comes on the heels of a recent online public survey that the tourism nonprofit hosted through this past Sunday. Made available to residents and people who work in Ann Arbor, Chelsea, Dexter, Manchester, Milan, Saline, and Ypsilanti, the short survey was conducted in partnership with MMGY, a destination marketing firm. The questions explored local travel experiences and preferences.

Chad Wiebesick, Destination Ann Arbor's director of public affairs, shares that his organization is looking forward to gaining valuable insight from the hundreds of responses. He points to a community survey that the organization undertook in 2017. That initiative asked residents and those employed in the area to weigh in on what they believed made Washtenaw County a great travel destination. 

"We also got hundreds of responses to that survey. It helped us create a strategic promotional strategy, which we've used to lure visitors here," Wiebesick says. "... Right now, tourism is big business here. It's the third leading industry for jobs in Washtenaw County and we will continue to build on that."

An economic impact study completed by Anderson Economic Group in 2022 revealed that over six million visitors travel to Ann Arbor each year. This influx supports over 6,800 full-time equivalent jobs in Washtenaw County and contributes nearly $190 million in earning power to local households.

Noting that the passing of time, and events such as the COVID pandemic, have influenced changes in the community, Wiebesick says it's a perfect time to connect with residents.

"We know that the pandemic accelerated some trends that were already emerging, such as outdoor recreation," he says. "People have steadily been seeing the appeal of getting out and doing things that are equally important for their physical and mental health. We're wondering if we'll see that in the latest responses."

Weibesick underscores that Destination Ann Arbor was very purposeful in promoting the survey "to every corner of the county." 

"We want and need the voices of as many different people as possible shaping the future of tourism," he says. "Washtenaw County is a broad county. Each community is different, but there are more similarities than differences."

Wiebesick says Destination Ann Arbor will determine and explore the current strengths and offerings of each community in the county.

"We want to learn what makes every inch of our communities wonderful and different, because we are better together," he says. "Promoting each community differently helps shape us as a whole, because the uniqueness of our communities is the very thing that makes us very appealing to visitors."

Jaishree Drepaul is a freelance writer and editor based in Ann Arbor. She can be reached at jaishreeedit@gmail.com.
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