If you’re looking for evidence that the tourism and meetings industries are rebounding in Michigan, turn your gaze to Ludington. The Mason County city experienced its strongest tourism year ever in 2021, with room rental income at an all-time high of $19.2 million. (Note: This metric includes figures collected only from lodging members of the Ludington Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, LACVB.)
“We expected tourism to surpass 2020 levels but seeing room rental income and state park visitors also exceed 2019 pre-pandemic figures shows that Ludington’s tourism industry is resilient,” says Brandy Miller, executive director of the LACVB. “The Ludington area has the ideal mix of amenities – including plenty of outdoor space – to offer visitors a safe, easily accessible destination. All signs point to a healthy and thriving tourism industry that plays an important role in bolstering Mason County’s economy.”
On the events and attractions front, while some events remained cancelled because of COVID concerns, 2021 saw an almost full calendar and attendance returning to pre-pandemic levels. For example, 1,900 tickets were sold for Suds on the Shore while 8,000 attendees watched the New Year’s Eve Ball Drop in person.
Some other findings from the tourism economic impact figures that were released by the LACVB.
- Ludington State Park broke attendance figures – The state park had its two best years ever for total park attendance and day-use visitors in 2021 and 2020, respectively. The park had 953,129 total visitors in 2021 – up 5.8 percent from 2020 and 22.2 percent from 2019. Additionally, the park welcomed the most day-use visitors in its history in 2021 with 740,477 visitors – up 6.1 percent from 2020 and 35.6 percent from 2019. The park also booked the most camp nights ever in 2021 with 56,531 camp nights – up 42.2 percent from 2020 and 11.2 percent from 2019.
- Marine traffic increased – Both municipal marinas saw increases in the number of transient boats (sail into Ludington and stay overnight) in 2021. Ludington Municipal Marina had 930 transient boat days in 2021 – up 30.2 percent from 2020 and 6.2 percent from 2019. Harbor View Marina had 822 transient boat days in 2021 – up 4.8 percent from 2020. (Figures are not available for 2019 when Harbor View was under private ownership.)
- Charter fishing increased – According to the DNR Fisheries Division, Ludington had 1,144 charter fishing excursions on Lake Michigan in 2021, not only up from 2020 but also slightly up from 2019 figures of 1,136 excursions. The number of charter boats on Lake Michigan also was similar to the past two years at 44 in 2021 (versus 42 in 2020 and 43 in 2019). There were also 21 excursions on Pere Marquette Lake, up 90 percent from 2019 (11 excursions).
The LACVB expects 2022 to be an even more robust tourism and events year. Mason County has a full calendar of events, new attractions, plus some milestone anniversaries with celebrations, including the 30th anniversary of the Ludington Gus Macker 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament (largest Macker in the country) and the fifth anniversary of the Port of Ludington Maritime Museum.