Mackinac Island hustles to keep up with tourists

Posted at 12:12 PM, Jun 29, 2016

Mackinac Island experienced outstanding visitor attendance in 2015. This year, it’s shaping up to be even busier.

The warmer winter ushered in a mild spring, the Michigan economy continues to rebound and gas prices are anticipated to fall over the course of this summer. All of these influences remind local business owners they need to bring their A-game if they’re to grab their share of profits in a season that lasts from May to October.

“When it’s this busy in early spring, it can be a challenge,” said James Johnson, manager for Lake View Hotel — an 85-room, fully renovated, 1858 Victorian-style hotel situated in the heart of downtown Mackinac Island. With a contingent of new hires every season, Johnson has to ensure his entire workforce, from front desk staff to maintenance workers, is up to speed and efficient with their duties.

“Even though we have a core team that returns each year, it takes a couple weeks to get the kinks out,” he said. “This year, we had an industry food show several days before the start of our season. We opened the hotel early to put on the show, then closed for a few more days before formally opening to the public. That was a good test of our staffing capabilities.”



Johnson said the hotel is always renovating and redecorating, and trying new things that enhance his guests’ experience. This year, the hotel has begun an ambitious, multi-year program to renovate all guest bathrooms with custom vanities and walk-in glass showers. Recently, all rooms were equipped with Bluetooth radios, Keurig coffee makers, and several rooms offer recharging stations for your electronic devices. Outside the rooms, the hotel has never looked better thanks to constant upkeep by a dedicated housekeeping staff. The maintenance team’s scrupulous attention to detail keeps the common areas and heated swimming pool looking untouched, and the redecorated atrium brings a contemporary aesthetic to the historic building.

Johnson reports that 2016 bookings are thus far exceeding all time historic highs, which is pretty impressive for a hotel that’s been around since before Abraham Lincoln was president.

Mark Alexander, director of marketing and advertising for Lake View Hotel, said the hotel has adapted new marketing strategies over the past few seasons that are helping to improve room occupancy - and the local economy. “Not only is Lake View a great place to stay, especially for families, it’s an important part of Main Street’s economy because on any given night we can add upwards of 200 guests who help support businesses nearby,” he said.

Those shops include Mackinac Island Bike Shop for bike rentals, Sanders Candy, and three popular Goodfellow’s restaurants located right on Lake View’s property: the Italian ChopHouse, Wings & Things sports bar, and the intimate Wine Cellar at the corner of Main Street and Hoban.

Alexander continues: “Spending the night on Mackinac Island is a dream come true for many of Lake View’s guests. We refer a lot of business to these other retailers, so anything they do to make our guests’ visit enjoyable reflects positively on us all. The little things really do count.”

For instance, Mackinac Island Bike Shop provides free helmets and baskets with their bike rentals, and hands out 70,000 bottles of free water every season though most people bring their own water with them. Amy Modd, the proprietor of Sanders Candy on Main Street, toils over custom crafted chocolate high heel shoes. At Goodfellow’s Wine Cellar, patrons enjoy wine flights paired with tapas plates or tap handle pours from a selection of craft beers. Many guests will move up to the ChopHouse for dinner, but if not, the Wine Cellar will serve them at a small table, or prepare them a carry out with dinner, wine, beer, and stogies from their humidor.

To be sure, there are dozens of quaint shops to amble through, and endless things to see and do on Mackinac Island. Visitors especially enjoy narrated carriage tours of the island and historic Fort Mackinac, which is desirable timing now that the season is in full swing. And surely much is required behind the scenes by all of the local businesses to stay on top of each season’s influx of tourists.

There are free music shows in Marquette Park, tours of the Governor’s Mansion, boat tours, yacht races, and the famed Mackinac Fudge Festival, among the many events that are quickly approaching.

Daily happenings and annual celebrations are transforming day trips into midweek and weekend getaways. Fortunately, Lake View Hotel and other area businesses have hit their stride and can accommodate essentially any visitor’s desire and budget.

Plan early enough to ensure best room availability and to take advantage of Lake View’s seasonal specials and coupon offers. For more information visit and these businesses mentioned in this article: