With the worst of the two-year pandemic waning, South Haven’s tourism leaders are expecting a strong year in 2022.
“Tourism is definitely making a comeback,” said Jan Sistrank, executive director of the South Haven/Van Buren County Bureau of Conventions and Visitors. “Housing income declined by just 8 percent during the pandemic. We outperformed 2019 annual residential income last year and trends show they will continue this year.”
Higher accommodation prices partly explain the increase in tourism revenue. According to the Pure Michigan division of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the average daily cost of living increased by 17 percent in 2021 and by 23 percent this year compared to last year.
“People are paying a lot more for travel and they don’t seem to mind,” Sistrank said.
She pointed to the South Haven market, where interest from potential visitors is steadily growing – even during a pandemic.
Bureau website statistics show that 308,248 people visited the site in 2019. In 2020, this number increased to 325,714 and in 2021 it increased again to 455,457 unique visits.
This trend is expected to continue this year, with more website visitors showing interest in traveling to South Haven not only during the summer months, but also in the spring and fall.
“The tourist season stretches into the spring and continues until the end of September,” Sistrank said.
She attributes the growing trend towards people’s interests to the wider variety of outdoor activities now offered in the South Haven area.
“During the pandemic, people came because the place is considered more remote than the larger metropolitan markets,” Sistrank said. “And they wanted to be outdoors. This interest continues.
In addition to South Haven’s beaches and parks, which have been attracting visitors for years, other recreational trails lead into the city, including the Cal Haven Trail and the Van Buren Trail. Bicycle lanes now run along a series of streets in the city centre. Over the past year, two new disc golf courses have opened in the area, and new launch pads for canoes and kayaks have opened along the Black River, which stretches east to South Haven and Geneva.
Travelers can enjoy the amenities offered at the Pilgrim Haven Nature Reserve and North Point Nature Area north of Van Buren State Park. New campgrounds have also emerged, including those created in response to the growing interest in “glamping”, where outdoor enthusiasts enjoy the comforts of home while sleeping in furnished outdoor tents.
“Over the past couple of years, we have purchased two new luxury campsites in Van Buren County,” Sistrank said. “Beaches have always drawn people to South Haven, but now people come here to bike, hike or fish. … We become famous thanks to …