Tourism Comeback: Business picking up after flood hit

Kali Katerberg/Daily Mining Gazette Shown here are some vacant spaces at the Hancock Recreation Area Campground, with many marked as reserved. Traffic to the campground is improving as the season moves away from summer flooding.

HOUGHTON/KEWEENAW — Even for those not directly impacted by summer flooding, the damage to tourism has produced a trickle-down effect for many industries.

With tourists changing plans, local businesses across the board have been impacted, said Dianne St. Amour, president of the Keweenaw Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Overall the month of July saw drops due to cancellations. Many were not rescheduled.

All-terrain vehicle (ATV) tourism was particularly impacted in both Houghton and Keweenaw counties, with many trails damaged in the storms.

On the bright side, the word is getting out that the region’s trail system is passable. There was an increase in ATV tourism in August.

“The word is getting out there, and I’d love to see some TV stations come back and look at where we’re at now,” St. Amour said.

Lodging saw one of the more significant impacts as families canceled plans.

“We were talking to other hotels in the area, and it seems like tourism was down for all of them,” said Michael Nilsen, general manager at the Magnuson Hotel Copper Crown in Hancock.

However, business at the hotel picked up significantly in August.

At the Hancock Recreation Area Campground, water warnings contributed to registration drops following the June 17 flash flood through mid-July, said City Manager Glenn Anderson.

Since then, business has increased, with registration at record levels similar to last year. Both 2017 and 2018 saw pre-recession levels, an improvement Anderson attributes to an improved economy, lower gas prices and increases in silent sports and motorcycle tourism.

Now the campground, along with the entire Copper Country region, is looking forward to a successful color season to continue the positive trend.

Small businesses in the Houghton downtown reported a much rosier picture for summer business. At Surplus Outlet, business took a hit in June, but after the Fourth of July, things picked up and continue to go well, said co-owner Barb McRae.

August was even better, she said, coming in ahead of normal.

Down the street, Michigan Made didn’t notice any dips other than during a three-day leave for all staff to aid in disaster cleanup, said owner Holly Jo Smith.

“It’s been a good season,” she said.

Michigan Made is in its third year of operation. The business has been trying to send customers to the Houghton area and promote the region from the Marquette location.

Overall, though many industries were impacted by tourism losses, the latter half of the summer season is showing a correction.

“I do see us bouncing back, but we’re still pushing hard to get the word out that we are open. There are still people out there that feel that because of those floods we’re still impassable, and that’s so not the truth,” said St. Amour.