Business is booming.

Summer tourism season off to strong start thanks to ORVs, events | News

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CADILLAC — Businesses in the Cadillac area are reporting a strong start to the summer tourism season thanks in part to growing interest in off-road vehicle riding and the variety of events that are happening here.

Jim Skiver, owner of J&D Marine and Powersports in Clam Lake Township, said they’ve been getting more and more calls from people interested in renting ORVs (also known as utility terrain vehicles, side by sides and other terms).

He said interest in ORVs picked up significantly after the announcement in May of a new scenic ride through Wexford and Lake counties. Lately, he said they’ve been renting out ORVs at least twice a week.

Skiver said they started offering ORVs for rent last year. With their snowmobile business shrinking due to inconsistent snowfall, Skiver said ORV riding could potentially make up for that loss in the coming years.

“People are selling their snowmobiles and getting UTVs,” said Skiver, who added that interest in ORV-riding is more consistent than snowmobile-riding because it is a year-round activity that can be done in virtually any kind of weather.

Jim’s wife, Teresa, said they’re now working with other businesses in the area to make it easier for ORV customers to find services and accommodations.

She said they deliver ORVs directly to lodging places close to the trailheads, including Coyote Crossing Resort. She said other places such as Mackinaw Timbers Cabins have built ORV-washing stations to attract riders. They regularly refer ORV customers to these and other businesses in the area and the favor is returned, Teresa said.

Pilgrim Village Fishing Shop operator Chris Knaisel said they’ve been selling a lot more ORV stickers during the last couple of years; he added that growth in ORVing in the area can be witnessed just by looking at the vehicle traffic on M-115.

“You almost can’t see a section of the road without a trailer hauling an ORV,” Knaisel said. “It’s really drawing people’s interest. It’s definitely booming right now.”

Cadillac Area Visitors Bureau Executive Director Kathy Morin said while they don’t have lodging data yet for the beginning of the tourism season, she’s been hearing anecdotal reports that businesses have been doing well, especially by comparison to the dismal winter months.

“The sentiment is that there will continue to be a lot of last-minute bookings and travel this summer,” Morin said. “With 2021 and 2022 being record travel years, we are all shifting back to bit more pre-COVID levels. A lot of the record travel can be attributed to postponed weddings and events, as well as a great increase in the number of visitors experiencing outdoor recreation activities in our area.”

Knaisel confirmed that the spring was better than the winter, which in 2023-2024 was possibly the worst they’ve ever experienced due to record-warm temperatures, although he added that the recent hot spell might be scaring anglers away.

Mike Blackmer, owner of the Pines Sports Bar and Bowling Center and co-owner of the Lake Cadillac Resort in Cadillac West, said the big difference for his businesses this spring was the Mitchell State Park being open. Last year, the park remained closed until later in the year to give Department of Natural Resources staff time to make a number of improvements to the park, including building a new bathroom and repaving the roads.

Business was down about 30% last spring, Blackmer said, but with the park open this year, it’s back to about normal.

“We’re having a good summer so far,” Blackmer said. “We’ve got a lot of campers coming to bowl (at the Pines) because it’s too hot to be outside. We’ve got four lanes going a lot of the time, which in the summer is very good.”

At the resort, Blackmer said he’s noticed more groups staying overnight and lodgers visiting the area to attend events.

A recent event that drew hundreds of visitors to the area is the Back to the Bricks Promo Tour, which filled downtown Cadillac on Sunday, June 9.

Dorri Dodson, owner of Emmi’s Closet and Emmi’s Bridal Boutique, said they’re not open on Sundays because it’s usually pretty slow. With the Back to the Bricks Promo Tour in town, Dodson said they decided to open until at least the early afternoon. When it came time to close, however, Dodson said her shopkeeper called her and said there was no way they could close now, considering all the customers that were coming in. They ended up staying open until almost 6 p.m.

“(Events like Back to the Bricks) are very beneficial to us little guys down here,” Dodson said.

In general, Dodson said she’s been seeing an uptick in customers heading into the summer months, and not just their regulars, but people they’ve never seen before.

“They tell me that Cadillac is always a stop for them on their trips farther north and south of here,” Dodson said. “Downtown doesn’t have everything people want but we’re heading in the right direction. I’m hopeful about how strong the season has started and that it will continue.”

One potential weakness this summer is in spending trends. Both Jim Skiver and Chris Knaisel said they’ve noticed people tending to be a little more conservative. For Skiver, that means fewer purchases of new equipment and more maintenance jobs. For Knaisel, that means fewer overnight stays per customer. Skiver theorized that with interest rates rising and 2024 being an election year,…

Read More: Summer tourism season off to strong start thanks to ORVs, events | News

2024-06-20 06:00:00

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