Mike Guswiler made what sounds like a giant career change, moving from hospitality to sports management—but he says the two fields have plenty in common.

The president of the West Michigan Sports Commission attended business school at Central Michigan University, then cut his teeth on hotel management. As he worked in hotels, he discovered the job was about representing an overall destination experience rather than one individual property. That insight led him to the Kent County Convention and Visitors Bureau, where he served for seven years. 

When the idea to form the West Michigan Sports Commission arose, he jumped at the chance to lead the effort. The commission was created to promote West Michigan as a premier destination for hosting a diverse range of youth and amateur sporting events.

“Even during a down economy, like in 2007, when the sports commission was formed, there is still success in attracting that sports traveler,” he says. “With youth and amateur sports, it’s often parents taking their kids on a minivacation within their state or region.” 

Ten years after the commission’s creation, Guswiler still believes that hospitality and sports make wonderful companions— because you can’t have sports tourism without hotels. 

And with four children of his own, Guswiler is no stranger to youth sports. 

“Sports and coaching have always been part of my life,” he says. “I have two kids in college and two still at home.” Soccer, lacrosse and baseball keep his family busy. In fact, sports are part of his life yearround: Guswiler also loves to snowboard and ski during the winter months and mountain bike in the summer. “I love how the Grand Rapids area offers so many recreation opportunities,” he says. 

Guswiler’s love for the area shines through in his work with the commission. “Each day is so different with all the sports organizations and local clubs we work with,” he says. “The job is really about bringing visitors into our community, and it’s a community I love and I’ve grown with, so we’ve been really fortunate with our success. I think it’s only the beginning.

Ken Hayward has spent nearly his entire career serving at one hotel. But when you start your career at one of the most iconic and historic hotels in Michigan— even the nation—it’s hard to see yourself anywhere else. Hayward, executive vice president and managing director of Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, was recently named Hotelier of the Year by Historic Hotels of America. This honor comes decades after Hayward was given an unexpected opportunity.


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