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Let's Take Back Summer

I passed my local high school the other morning and at least 50 kids in football helmets and jerseys were out on the practice field. Now, I’m a high school football fan but when did football become a summer sport?

Nowadays, not only does football start in summer (my state calls for football practice to begin on August 1) but so does school! I’m talking about the fact that school, in most states, begins in mid-August instead of after Labor Day as was once the American way. What this has done is make a short summer even shorter, and thousands of businesses in recreation and tourism are being hurt. It’s time to call for a universal school starting date after Labor Day!

There is a growing trend to return to the post Labor Day school start and we need to get on board. Currently, 11 states reportedly have laws setting the start date. And the benefits are becoming clear.

Michigan is a great example. With solid support from the tourism industry, including boating and the Michigan Boating Industries Association, the legislature overcame strong opposition from teachers' unions, and mandated that schools open after Labor Day beginning in 2006. The results have been impressive.

In a study commissioned by Cedar Fair Entertainment, 53 percent of hotels in Michigan reported higher or significantly higher occupancy levels in the last two weeks of August 2006 compared to 2005. Estimates suggested Michigan would enjoy an additional $10 million in tourism-related tax revenue from the increased business activity. Specifically, the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit reported a 26,000-person increase during the two weeks prior to Labor Day in 2006 over 2005. Michigan Adventure Amusement Park near Grand Rapids saw a 42 percent increase in business the last two weeks of August 2006 compared to 2005. Great gains! And, while the study did not examine boating activity, it’s logical to expect that Michigan’s boating families continued to use their boats through Labor Day rather than ending their summer in mid-August. That’s good for Michigan’s dealers, marina operators and related businesses!

If Michigan can do it, it can be done everywhere. If schools start before Labor Day in your state, it’s your time to move for change. If you have a local or state marine trade association (MTA), it should be a priority of your MTA’s legislative program to get change. Join an alliance of tourism and recreation industries. Nationally, we are counting on the Discover Boating program to increase our sales. On the state level, we need to take back our summers so our customers and prospects can spend more time on the water.

That’s the way I see it, how about you?

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