Early Indicators Show Surge In Visitors To The Saugatuck/Douglas Area This Summer
This summer has seen a surge in visitors to the Saugatuck area, according to city officials and tourism entities.
“We have seen a massive influx of the number of bodies here,” Saugatuck/Douglas Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) Felicia Fairchild told The Local Observer on Tuesday.
The CVB would still need to study the numbers after the tourism season to get an accurate picture of how much of a hike it’s been and its impact, according to Fairchild.
There are several indicators that tourism and city officials use to determine increases or decreases in the number of tourists visting the local area.
One thing that could serve as a barometer is the amount of revenue generated by parking lot ticket sales at Saugatuck’s Oval Beach, less than a week before Memorial Day, after which parking fee collection ceases.
“This year we made about $352,000 in parking passes (so far), a couple of thousand more from last year ($350,000),” Saugatuck City Treasurer Peter Stanislawski told The Local Observer Tuesday.
He said the city has specifically sold more season parking tickets to non-residents than the previous years.
The visitor surge is particularly true for one sector of the tourist market.
“We have seen a huge shift in the market place; there are many more day-trippers (as opposed to overnighters or visitors staying for days).
“This year people are predominately wanting to stay for a shorter period of time,” noted Fairchild.
The sudden increase in day-trippers is making parking spaces more sparse and affected the overnight market, she said.
“I’ve never seen a shift happen so fast, so quickly. I don’t know exactly where it’s coming from; it could be the economy,” said Fairchild who’s been at the CVB for more than 20 years.
“We are also trying figure out—something we’ll look at after the season—if this (surge in day-trippers) is universal (impacting other resort towns along Lake Michigan) or is it just us.”
Up and down the Lake Michigan coastline though, parking lots of resort beaches had to be temporarily closed during some hours on certain days due to overflow, indicating an increase in tourist activities in other places, she noted.
At Saugatuck’s Oval Beach, parking lot overflows are dealt with what Saugatuck City Manager Kirk Harrier describes as “turning traffic,” asking beachgoers in cars to leave and come back in 15 minutes to check on possible open parking spaces.
Douglas Beach in the City of Douglas, on the other hand, has no parking fees, but has less than 20 parking spaces, creating a possible vehicular parking congestion, and therefore a safety hazard along Center Street and side streets.
This is a problem Douglas city officials say they will attempt address with future “no parking” signage once the Beach to Bayou trail is completed.