[Blog] Talking tourism in China

Governor Snyder takes a photo with excited University of Michigan fans in China

By Dave Murray

August 24, 2015

This blog is part of a series of blogs that deputy press secretary Dave Murray is writing about Governor Snyder's investment mission to China.  Read the blog and follow the hashtag #InvestInMI to stay up to date on the Governor's investment mission.

We know Michiganders are smitten with the mitten. But can more Chinese visitors come check out all the amazing things our state has to offer?

I’m accompanying Gov. Rick Snyder on his fifth trade mission to China. The governor is meeting with key government leaders and manufacturers. But those folks take Sunday off, so we set off to one of China’s iconic landmarks to talk to people about taking in some of what Michigan has to offer.

Many people think of the our state’s proud automotive heritage, but tourism is actually one Michigan’s “Big Three” industries. (We’ll assume you know that the automotive sector is one of the three. Can you guess the third? The answer will be at the bottom.)

Tourism last year generated $22.8 billion in economic activity in Michigan and supports more than 214,000 jobs. And the Chinese are touring. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, 1.5 million Chinese visited the United States in 2012. That’s up more than a third from the year before.

So we set out to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall of China, where we learned many things.

First, many Chinese refer to the Great Wall as the Long Wall, which makes sense because it stretches about 13,000 miles. For some comparison, our flight from Detroit to Beijing was 7,000 miles.

Second, the section of the wall we visited is about 1,400 years old. Again, for comparison, Columbus set out for the New World 523 years ago.

Third, it’s a strenuous climb, with steps of all sizes and the wall winds up and down the hills.

And finally, there are people with connections to Michigan everywhere. We were walking around in our sweet Pure Michigan shirts and heard an excited guy in maize and blue excitedly shout, “Michigan! Michigan!”

Turns out he’s a University of Michigan alum, and happily posed with the governor and his daughter Kelsey – both proud Wolverines – holding a large U of M flag.

And after we learned, we had time to teach. Gov. Snyder was joined by Chinese journalists who specialize in travel to tell the Michigan story.

The discussion started atop the Great Wall with an interview with Beijing Public Service Channel, China’s leading mainstream media outlet, and ended at The Schoolhouse, and restaurant and hotel in a former school.

Reporters from the Global Times, Traveler and Travel Weekly China surrounded the governor, Kelsey and Dave Lorenz, vice president of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation for Travel Michigan.

Gov. Snyder talked about the magnificent – and shark-free – Great Lakes and Michigan’s incredible beaches, including Sleeping Bear Dunes, named the most beautiful place in the United States. To make a point, the governor reached for his iPhone to display a photo of a West Michigan lakeshore sunset to a chorus of “ooohs.”

Keep in mind that Chinese tourists spent $8.8 billion in the United States in 2013. Showing off all that Michigan has to offer could leader to a larger slice of that pie getting spent in our state. Make a Traverse City cherry pie, if you please.

And speaking of cherries, there’s your answer to the question above. Agriculture and Food are one of Michigan’s “big three,” generating more than $100 billion in economic activity.

Follow along with the Governor's investment mission to China using the hashtag #InvestInMI