Report: Traverse City Horse Shows major driver in area tourism
Wineries, golf courses and recreation activities in the lakes and woods attract people to northern Michigan every year.
Tourism officials say Traverse City’s internationally-renowned horse shows should be added to that list.
An economic impact report by Sport Management Research Institute found horse competitions are now a major driver of tourism in the Traverse Bay region.
This year added $120 million to the local economy, a huge growth rate compared to a similar report in 2017, which saw an estimated $8 million in visitor spending.
Officials including Traverse City Tourism CEO and President Trevor Tkach say the impact is dramatic.
“It adds local jobs and strengthens a year-round economy,” he said in a release.
In 2018, the show’s new owners spent about $20 million building structures and putting in Olympic-level grounds at the Flintfields Horse Park in Acme Township. They installed state of the art footing, which cushions horses’ tendons and joints when they land from jumps.
This year the show also doubled its events, offering competitions over the course of 12 weeks.
Equestrians from across the U.S. and 28 countries spent millions on local retail, restaurants and lodging, just this summer.
Groups that come for horse shows stay longer and spend more money than a typical northern Michigan tourist, says Traverse City Horse Shows Co-owner Matt Morrissey. The average participants stayed 33 nights and one third had a household income of over $500,000.
The average group is about nine people and spends more than $6,500 a day while visiting.
Morrisey says a third of this summer’s attendees had never been to a show in the region before. He says the longer 12 week season likely accounted for the large increase this year.
Newcomers like that they can go boating and fishing in between competitions, which isn’t typical of many other competitions, Morrisey says.
“A lot of the horse shows you see around the country because of property prices are out in the country where they’re not close to a city,” he says.
The area’s competitions are prestigious and coveted by equestrians, according to Morrisey.
“They’re gaining world ranking points and our prize money for the summer, we’re one of the top offerers of prize money,” he says.
He expects an even bigger local impact next year when the events open to spectators.