Jessica Leighty/Lakeland Times
A Joint Effort Marketing (JEM) grant was presented to the St. Germain Chamber of Commerce at the organization’s Martinis in May event earlier this month. The grant will assist with marketing for the second annual Arctic Warrior Race later this winter. Pictured, from left, are St. Germain Chamber events and public relations coordinator Judy Jurries, St. Germain Chamber director Penny Wiesmann, Department of Tourism secretary Stephanie Klett, and representative Rob Swearingen.
5/18/2017 7:24:00 AM Wisconsin tourism up $700M across state in 2016
Oneida, Vilas among counties to see growth
The Wisconsin Department of Tourism has released the 2016 visitor spending numbers and the state experienced a boost for the sixth consecutive year.
Overall, the state's tourism industry brought in $20 billion last year, $700 million more than 2015.
"The travel and hospitality industry continues to be crucial to our state and is consistently a top performing sector of our economy," Gov. Scott Walker said in a press release. "Investing in tourism promotion and marketing at the national, state, and local level is not only an effective way to attract visitors and grow the economy, it also enhances the image of Wisconsin as a great place to live and do business."
The department attributes the state's success to multiple factors including lower gas prices, consumer confidence and spending increases in the lodging sector.
According to the 2016 data, visitor spending accounted for $1.5 billion in state and local revenue. This saved Wisconsin taxpayers roughly $650 per household.
Closer to home, Oneida County saw a 2.74 percent tourism increase and was ranked 16th in the state.
Travelers to Oneida County spent $222 million in 2016 and contributed to the 1.53 percent increase in employment over the year.
The Rhinelander Tourism and Marketing Committee (RTMC) recorded a 10.1 percent increase in room taxes collected for the city of Rhinelander and the town of Pelican Lake.
"Tourism plays a critical role in our community and continues to grow," Rhinelander Chamber executive director Maggie Steffen said in a press release. "From an economic standpoint, the numbers reflect that. Last year's numbers across the state, county and even locally are very encouraging and we hope to capitalize on this momentum in the coming summer season."
RTMC will use the additional funds to promote local tourism through ExploreRhinelander.com, area promotions and various marketing efforts.
According to the Oneida County Tourism Council (OCTC), tourism supports one out of every 12 jobs in the state and accounted for more than 2,100 jobs in Oneida County in 2016.
"It's so nice to see these tourism numbers continue to grow every year, and it's a credit to all of our visitors as well as the support we get from Oneida County," Minocqua Area Chamber of Commerce executive director Krystal Westfahl said. "It just goes to show that visitors recognize all the great businesses and attractions they can find here in the Northwoods."
Westfahl also serves as president for OCTC, which promotes the county using several channels. This includes OneidaCountyWI.com, the county Travel and Trail Guide, several giveaways throughout the year, the county's Facebook page and digital newsletters highlighting events and activities.
Oneida's northern neighbor, Vilas County, also saw a boost in tourism for the fifth consecutive year. Overall, the county has seen an increase of $17.1 million over the five-year span.
"We're thrilled to see visitor spending continuing to grow in Vilas County," Vilas County Tourism and Publicity director Cindy Burzinski said in a press release. "Tourism is so important to our communities. Our local businesses depend on visitors for their livelihood, so to see so many folks returning to Vilas County year after year is a wonderful thing."
In 2016, Vilas County Tourism and Publicity reached area visitors through multiple social media platforms, three promotional giveaways, the county's newly redesigned Vilas.org website and the county's free Map It! app, which includes silent sport trails and global positioning system (GPS) functionality.
Wisconsin Department of Tourism secretary Stephanie Klett recently made an appearance at the St. Germain Chamber of Commerce event, Martinis in May, and told the The Lakeland Times one of the factors in the state's tourism success is marketing of the Northwoods.
"I think what's happening is we have chambers and CVB's [convention and visitors bureaus] that are working at maximum capacity," Klett said. "And then we have marketing at the state level that's working and we've been marketing the daylights out of the Northwoods. I know for me, the Northwoods is the quintessential Wisconsin."
Klett said both of the state's summer ads were filmed in Hazelhurst, which makes the Northwoods the basis of the state campaign in print, digital and television.
The Department of Tourism has also focused on the state's dog-friendly destinations, which Klett said has only helped the numbers.
"Our destinations have told us their dog numbers are up," Klett said. "Anecdotally, I can tell you Bayfield, Lake Geneva, Door County, packed. I have never seen so many dogs. Our website has a little paw for things that are dog-friendly and we follow those numbers. People are so engaged with it so it's been really successful."
The department will also be incorporating one of the state's newest celebrities into the canine-centered campaign, Rumor, the German Shepard.
"And now we're continuing with Rumor, the German Shepard, who just won the Westminster Dog Show," Klett said. "She's from Edgerton, Wisconsin. So we'll use Rumor to continue on with the dog-friendly trend. You'll see her really in the digital space and in the print space. So that's been going really great."
Klett said the state's next big campaign will be unveiled at the Governor's Conference on Tourism in March of 2018 in Appleton. She couldn't give any details on the campaign but she did say curious minds will want to remember that date.
"All I can tell you is now we're going to do something I don't think's been done in any state ever," Klett said.
Jessica Leighty may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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