New study finds $832 million in 2018 visitor spending in Washtenaw County

A new study commissioned by Destination Ann Arbor has unveiled a new study showing that visitor spending in Washtenaw County reached $832 million in 2018, up from $770 million in 2016.


The study, administered by Anderson Economic Group, was conducted in 2019 with data from 2018. It noted that Washtenaw County had 3.9 million visitors in 2018 and that their total economic impact (from both direct and indirect spending) was $1.2 billion. Margaret Wyzlic, Destination Ann Arbor's director of communications and public relations, says the results are a reason to celebrate, especially for local workers.


"Visitor spending supports about 9,500 full-time equivalent jobs, which means $243 million in income for employees. It's a real driver of employment and wages and contributes to why the county is such a great place to live, work and play," she says.


Another notable highlight of the study was that the average overnight visitor spent $68 per day in 2018. This is up from $63 in 2016, with the largest increase occurring in the food and beverage category.


Wyzlic says the results indicate that county restaurants are doing better than ever when it comes to providing value and engaging people in the local food scene.


"Our great culinary culture is something that we have known about on an anecdotal level. Now we see through actual data that visitors are spending more money in this area," she says.


The study also found specific events, like the International Champions Cup soccer match at Michigan Stadium, to be major economic drivers. And the impact visitors have continues well after they leave. According to the study, the $37.1 million in tax revenue associated with the visitor economy significantly contributes to the funding of libraries, parks, law enforcement, education and other services that add to county residents' quality of life.


Moving into the new year, Wyzlic says Destination Ann Arbor will use the study results in continuing efforts to more efficiently convey why visitors need to come to Ann Arbor.


"We can better effect change by getting more intentional in our storytelling ... not just about Ann Arbor, but also about the hidden gems in other places in the county," she says. "The goal is to continue to grow the impact we have seen from this latest study, which will be beneficial to everyone who lives here."


Jaishree Drepaul-Bruder is a freelance writer and editor currently based in Ann Arbor. She can be reached at