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2017 Board
of Directors

Jamie Furbush

Vice President:
Julie Pingston

Kami Kennedy

Dan McCole

Members at Large:
Bill Manson

Kristin Phillips

Past President:
Dennis Eade


2016 Award Winners:

Experience/Development Presentation

Autopalooza – A collaborative of the MotorCities National Heritage Area, the Detroit Metro CVB, Don Nicholson Enterprises and Travel Michigan

Autopalooza was created as a collaboration to promote the unique automotive events which occur across southeast Michigan during the summer. The promotion all of these events together, connects the culture of auto heritage throughout the region and presents the events in a new and compelling way.

Autopalooza features 18 events and the reach spreads from the downriver Detroit area, to the Woodward Dream Cruise, the Pure Michigan 400, and to Lansing with the Car Capitol Celebration. It is estimated that through the various Autopalooza events, over 3 million visitors and residents are reached and linked to Michigan’s automotive heritage and culture.

Non-Traditional Partnership:

Cell Block 7 – A collaboration with Experience Jackson, the Michigan Department of Corrections and the Ella Sharpe Museum.

For over a century, Jackson has been home to Michigan’s largest prison. Over time, there had been conversations about turning this negative perception in Jackson into a positive asset. Recently, an innovative collaboration came together and within 19 months, a new attraction was created…Cell Block 7.

The partnership between Experience Jackson and the Michigan Department of Corrections is unprecedented by bringing a local non-profit’s vision for a unique tourism experience together with a state department’s goal of improving the perception and image of the corrections system.

While both parties agreed a museum in block 7 of the prison could work, the major stumbling block centered on who would operate the facility if it was developed. Experience Jackson reached out to the Ella Sharp Museum, a nationally accredited community museum and they agreed to operate the facility.

Michigan’s tourism industry can now boast of having the only prison museum in the country that is located within an operating prison complex which thousands of visitors have now experienced.

Non-Traditional Partnership:

Michigan Cares for Tourism- A collaboration of the Department of Hospitality & Tourism Management-Grand Valley State University, MI Department of Natural Resources, Indian Trails and DRIVEN – Modern Media Group

Michigan Cares for Tourism is a 100% volunteer, 100% give back partnership between Michigan tourism organizations which come together to help restore Michigan’s historic attractions, learn about a Michigan tourism community, and network across industry segments to ultimately enhance the visitor experience.

In their first two years, Michigan Cares has engaged 890 tourism professionals as volunteers at the four Michigan historic attractions that have hosted restoration and clean-up efforts.

2015 Award Winners:

Experience Development Presentation

"Brighton’s Farm to Table Experience

was given the award. The Greater Brighton Chamber partnered locallyto create an annual Pure Michigan-style “farm to table” alfresco dining event to attract the culinary tourism market to the region.  The concept showcased locally sourced ingredients from local growers and from the Brighton Farmers Market.  The experience allowed guests, who came from across the State of Michigan, to meet the local food growers and producers, while raising funds for the Livingston County Hunger Council and the Brighton Farmer’s Market. Brighton’s Farm to Table Experience created a way to bring additional awareness to agriculture both locally and in the State of Michigan, while educating the public on the tremendous amount of tourism that is created through culinary assets as well as farmer’s markets.

Tourism Marketing and Promotion:

Passion is evident in Grand Rapids as craft beer lovers unite, art transforms the city during ArtPrize and laughter is part of the fabric of the community during LaughFest. The various events, festivals and brands in Grand Rapids have a lot of interest and support, but did not have a permanent, long-term retail location for fans to purchase items to display their enthusiasm or to use as gifts.  So, Experience Grand Rapids, ArtPrize, the GR & (Grand) Brand and LaughFest partnered together to create a merchandise management system through Markit Merchandise and a joint website, which was designed by Mindutopia.  Now, through the creation of, visitors can purchase branded merchandise for ArtPrize, Beer City USA, GR& and Laughfest all at one website.  The collaboration eliminates multiple efforts while enhancing exposure for each brand year round.  Since May of 2014, the online store has sold thousands of dollars in merchandise, which has been sent to customers from 20 different states and around the world.Education & Training:

Northwest Michigan Wine Tasting Room Training Program

This collaboration is a two year effort between the wineries of Traverse City, Old Mission Peninsula and the Leelanau Peninsula.   Ten different wineries, headed by a five person steering committee, collaborated throughout 2013 – 2014 to create a credentialed program for wine tasting rooms that features education, training and competency in the areas of customer service, wine fluency and alcohol management.  This program developed the curriculum and instructional materials and then trained 16 individuals with skills that they did not possess prior to this program.  Created by the wine industry for the wine industry, this program is the first of its kind. Staff in the winery tasting rooms will now have skills and tips to further enhance the experience for the customers and to boost credibility of the Michigan wine industry.  The next objective is a statewide roll-out of the training program.

Past Recipients:

2014 Award Winners:Experience Development

The Puck Drops Here; Collaborative of: Ann Arbor Area CVB, Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority and Main Street Area Association.

When the National Hockey League selected the University of Michigan Football Stadium to host the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2014 Winter Classic, the Ann Arbor CVB, the Ann Arbor DDA and the Main Street Association collaborated together in order to enhance the experience for the thousands attending the event, especially those coming in from Toronto.  What could enhance the experience more that a 3,000 pound, multicolored, brightly lit puck descending from the air on New Year’s Eve at a festive street party in downtown Ann Arbor? Thousands of Canadians mixed with locals to pack the downtown streets of Ann Arbor.  Bars, restaurants coffee shops and retail stores overflowed with revelers who experienced a one of a kind event for Michigan.  A total of 5-7,000 people were anticipated to attend the event and over 20,000 people came out. And, it all took place in 16 degree weather!

Innovative Tourism Collaboration Award – Marketing/Promotion

Michigan Sports – Collaborative of:Alpena CVB, Ann Arbor Area CVB, Calhoun County Visitors Bureau, Detroit Metro CVB, Flint & Genesee County CVB, Holland Area CVB, Experience Jackson, Discover Kalamazoo, Greater Lansing Sports Authority, Marquette County CVB, Muskegon County CVB, Mount Pleasant Area CVB, Great Lakes Bay Regional CVB,Traverse City Touirsm and the West Michigan Sports Commission.

Michigan Sports is a coalition of 15 Destination Marketing Organizations, which came together under the name “Michigan Sports” with the goal of marketing Michigan as a destination for sporting events.  This unique partnership aligns traditional competitors in an effort to raise the profile of Michigan as a sport tourism destination.  Michigan Sports members have pooled resources in order to sponsor as a State at national tradeshows, to coordinate large out of state sales blitzes to Indianapolis and Colorado Springs, to create a website for Michigan Sports and to provide a statewide education symposium to present sports trends and best practices.  By bringing DMOs together in partnership, Michigan Sports is able to market collectively at the national level and increase brand awareness for our state.

Innovative Tourism Collaboration Award; Non-Traditional Partnerships

Gateway Communities Initiative/The Big 400 – Collaborative of:  Chelsea Chamber of Commerce, Legacy Land Conservancy, MI DNR/Waterloo Recreation Area, Village of Manchester, Village of Dexter, The Conservation Fund, City of Chelsea, Chelsea Center for the Arts, Chelsea District Library, MI DNR/Pinckney Recreation Area, Sandhill Crane Vineyards, Dexter Township, Eddy Discovery Center, Dahlem Conservancy, Washtenaw County Parks & Recreation Commission, Ann Arbor Area CVB, Hell Chamber of Commerce, Hayes State Park, Brooklyn-Irish Hills Chamber of Commerce, Ypsilanti Area CVB, Putnam Township, Stockbridge Area Chamber of Commerce and McLennan Gardens.

The Gateway Communities Initiative is a grassroots, not-for-profit organization linking conservation, commerce and local communities in southeastern Michigan.  The GCI is the area of small towns, parks, rivers, recreation and conservation areas that encompass a 20 mile by 20 mile area and is now branded as THE BIG 400.  The members of the Big 400 provide opportunities to balance nature and protect community character, while increasing commerce and tourism.  Through the collaboration, non-traditional cross promotions were developed to create new itineraries for visitors as well as grant opportunities for communities and culminated in this past year’s “Mill Lake Clean-Up Project” through Michigan Cares for Tourism.  “We can work together” is the vision and approach employed by all those involved in this collaboration.

2013 Award Winners:

Award for Non-Traditional Tourism Partnerships and Collaboration - The Henry Ford and the Shanghi Auto Museum

The Henry Ford’s relationship with the Shanghai Auto Museum began in 2010 with a letter of cooperation between the two museums to strengthen relations to build a new bridge between the cultures and the countries.  As a result,the museums have shared best practices which led to a loan agreement that has brought automotive artifacts from the collection of The Henry Ford to Shanghai for display in the Shanghai Auto Museum.  Additionally, The Henry Ford has a 12-minute video playing in the museum which invites Chinese museum-goers to visit the United States, Michigan and The Henry Ford.  As a result of the collaboration with the Shanghai Auto Museum, The Henry Ford has experienced over a 450% increase in Chinese group/tour operator visits and double digit increases in general visitors to the facility from China.

Award for Experience Development
A Collaboration of 6 entities

Michigan Restaurant Association
MI Charter Boat Association
MI Department of Agriculture & Rural Development
MI Department of Natural Resources
Michigan Sea Grant
MSU Department of Fisheries and Wildlife

Anglers on the Great Lakes can set out on a charter boat in the morning and enjoy their fresh catch at a restaurant in the afternoon as a result of the collaboration of Michigan Catch and Cook.  The program is an innovative and compelling experience that brings recreational fishing and the restaurant industry together – expanding the services offered to clients by charter boat fishing companies, generating new business for restaurants and promoting Michigan’s Great Lakes.  The concept of lake to plate has enhanced the visitor experience not just with the catch but with the anticipation of a great meal ahead.

Award for Marketing Partnerships and Collaboration - Experience Grand Rapids and 59 local restaurants and breweries in Grand Rapids

Experience Grand Rapids created a promotion that combined culinary tourism with Grand Rapids’ booming reputation in the brewing industry.  The “Cool Brews. Hot Eats.” promotion involved 59 participating restaurants and breweries eager to showcase their culinary creations and celebrate local craft beer.  The partnering organizations were creative in their ideas and offered beer pairing events and beer-inspired dishes.  The media, including the Chicago Tribune, rallied behind the promotion, blogs detailed the activities, visual stories were created on Instagram, and QR codes were utilized at the breweries for prize giveaways.  The promotion ignited a collaborative fire inside the already passionate local chefs and brewers, all in support of Michigan tourism.

2012 Award Winner:

Award for Non-Traditional Partnerships and Collaboration - Port Cities Collaborative

The Michigan Port Collaborative won the 2012 award for non-traditional tourism partnerships and collaboration.  The Michigan Port Collaborative is comprised of more than 50 partners at various ports throughout the State of Michigan. Their mission is to “unite port communities working to develop our Great Lakes and coastline as

2011 Award Winners

Award for Marketing/Promotion - Lake to Lake Bed and Breakfast Association.
The members of this association collaborated on marketing initiatives, which were designed to move their marketing from traditional print to new digital technologies. They created a new website, which offers more unique ways to interact with guests and promote members than any other B&B website in the country. “Blog Buddies” were incorporated into the website to present team blogging done by innkeepers on a variety of tourism topics.

Non-Traditional Partnerships - Michigan Culinary Tourism Alliance.
Culinary tourism is a growing trend in tourism as consumers spend an increasing amount of time and money engaging in authentic and unique food and beverage experiences when they travel. The partnership of the Michigan Restaurant Association, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Travel Michigan collaborated to secure US Department of Agriculture grant funding and create the Michigan Culinary Tourism Alliance. The Alliance promotes the state as a culinary destination as well as to encourage more restaurants to serve local food and beverage.

Education and Training - Michigan’s Great Outdoors
Michigan’s Great Outdoors is a five county partnership that promotes tourism for Manistee, Mason, Lake Newaygo and Oceana Counties. One of the group’s accomplishments has been to create a fall tourism conference aimed at education, training and networking within the five counties. Participants of the conference include legislators and representatives of chambers of commerce, EDCs, and extension offices, many of whom have not typically been part of local or regional tourism planning and coordination. This has created stronger partnerships to promote tourism to this region and to strengthen the local economies of these five counties. This effort has led to a collaborative logo, website and marketing strategies.

Experience Development and Presentation - Monroe County Convention & Tourism Bureau
The River Raisin Jazz Festival was created by the Monroe County Convention & Tourism Bureau, the City of Monroe and St. Mary’s Catholic Central High School. The Festival has grown to attract 50,000 festival-goers who travel from 45 of our 50 states and provides an economic impact to the greater Monroe area of 2.5 million dollars. The Festival hosts the biggest names in jazz but also supports local and regional artists. The collaboration strives to use only local vendors to keep its “buy local” commitment. This year’s Festival takes place August 12-13 in downtown Monroe if you’d like to check out this award winning experience yourself.

For a list of past Collaboration Award winners, please use this link: Awards - Historical

The Governor’s Awards for Innovative Tourism Collaboration were announced in 2008 by the Michigan Travel Commission as a result of the Travel Industry’s Strategic Plan and were first presented during a special awards ceremony at the 2009 Michigan Tourism Conference. Since 2011, the Tourism Industry Coalition of Michigan (TICOM) has coordinated the awards process.

P.O. Box 403 - Stanwood, MI 49346 - Phone: 231-823-0015 - Email:
© 2011 All rights reserved