Mackinac Island saw big tourism rebound during 2021 season

Photo gallery: Grand Hotel celebrates 130th birthday on Mackinac Island
Posted at 7:23 AM, Oct 25, 2021

MACKINAW CITY, Mich. (AP) — Business owners on Michigan's Mackinac Island are celebrating a big rebound in tourism this year after fewer visitors made the journey to the island in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Many visitors discovered the iconic carless-island getaway for the first time this year, said business owners on the island, which sits in the Straits of Mackinac that separates Michigan’s Upper and Lower peninsulas.

Chris Shepler, a third-generation operator of Shepler’s Ferry, which shuttles visitors to Mackinac Island, said the summer “was out of control" for the ferry service.

“Absolutely crazy. We set records for our all-time busiest summer in the history of our company," he told the Detroit Free Press.

Through Sept. 1, the island's overall hotel room revenue for the 2021 season was on pace to smash the record year it saw in 2019, when revenue topped $74.56 million, said Tim Hygh, executive director of the Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau. Final data is still be crunched for 2021, he said.

“It came after vaccinations, and people were so eager to travel. The market found us," Hygh said.

As everything closes up for the season on the island known for its hiking, biking and horse-drawn carriage rides, Mackinac Island Mayor Margaret Doud said she's cautious but hopeful about what 2022 may hold.

“I look forward to moving out of the pandemic but we are still in a pandemic,” said Doud, who is often found at the front desk of the iconic Windermere Hotel.