Jul 28, 2009 at 10:18 PM
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Travel Michigan Gets Technical

Time was when travel sponsorships involved a simple booth and a sweepstakes. Last weekend, Michigan married GPS technology with one of the world's most prestigious fresh water sailing events in an effort to drive visitors to michigan.org. Travel Michigan spent $110,000 to title the Bayview Mackinac Race in its 85th year and then installed GPS devices on more than 200 participating boats. Fans, and competitors themselves, were able to monitor individual entrants in real time, follow the six race boat divisions, view overall race progress and weather reports exclusively on michigan.org.

"For fans and spectators [the GPS technology] brings this exciting race to their lap tops in addition to the majestic experience of being at Port Huron for the pageantry and fun this event brings every year. This race marks the rite of summer in Michigan.

The result? Visits to the Web site set a record of 96,950 user sessions to michigan.org; total visits over the three days reached 262,116; of those 94,110 or 36 percent were to the GPS page. Total GPS page views numbered 970,935.

"One of our strategies for our sponsorship of the Pure Michigan Bayview Mackinac Race was to drive large numbers of potential visitors to michigan.org, and expose them to information about the state for future vacation planning," said Travel Michigan Vice President George Zimmermann. "Having three record-breaking days in a row shows we accomplished our goal."

Of course, some variable weather probably didn't hurt traffic either. According to the Detroit Free Press, "the 85th Pure Michigan Bayview Mackinac turned out to be the race that had everything: wind, no wind, fog, rain, sun and controversy."

Travel Michigan's $30 million Pure Michigan advertising campaign was recently named by Forbes as one of the 10 all-time best tourism campaigns.