kayla houp/lakeland times
State and local tourism representatives, including Wisconsin Tourism secretary-designee Sara Meaney, spoke at a press conference at The Waters of Minocqua July 11 to launch the revitalization of the countyís new brand. Others speakers included President of the OCTC and executive director for the Minocqua Chamber of Commerce Krystal Westfahl, OCTC member Jim Winkler and Wisconsin Assembly District 34 representative Rob Swearingen (R-Rhinelander).
7/13/2019 7:30:00 AM It's OK, you're on vacation: Oneida County Tourism Council revitalizes brand
Kayla Houp Of The Lakeland Times
The Oneida County Tourism Council (OCTC) unveiled the new Oneida County website and brand Thursday morning, revitalizing the brand to promote everything the Northwoods has to offer.
Revitalizing the brand includes emphasizing all the ways visitors to the area can relax and bringing that information to their fingertips with the new website.
"In Oneida County, you don't have to choose between getting away from it all and having it all," president of the OCTC and executive director of the Minocqua Area Chamber of Commerce Krystal Westfahl said. "Visitors to the area can access the classic Northwoods assets without abandoning the comforts of home with a variety of accessibility of businesses. The choices of where to go and what to do are endless."
Westfahl emphasized the OCTC wanted to bring to life the idea that when you're here in Oneida County, you're able to relax and enjoy yourself.
With the new website, onenorthwoods.com, visitors have a "one, easy place for them to go" for anything they need.
"This is your one-stop shop for anything you need to do when you come to our area of the Northwoods," Westfahl said.
Whether visitors are coming to Minocqua, Tomahawk, or Rhinelander, the new website showcases over 1,000 businesses within the area through a search engine designed to represent a variety of businesses in the area and showcase the county as a whole. Travelers can search by type of business, amenities, location and more to find exactly what they're looking for.
The website features a complete redesign reflecting the "laid-back" spirit of the Northwoods in "relaxing colors and spirited accents" and represents the experiences visitors can expect.
"The things you're going to experience here are gonna be those types of experiences: fun, playful, and exciting," Westfahl said.
'Tourism is a really big deal'
The new brand launch also brought county and state representatives to speak, not only to the county's dedication to tourism, but to how the launch is only one of the many initiatives to welcome visitors to the area.
"I'm really excited about this new brand," OCTC member Jim Winkler said. "And this new website that we have."
The redesigned website is only one part of the larger effort to cultivate and foster tourism in Oneida County.
"If you don't think tourism in the Northwoods makes an impact, you should've seen the purple wristbands from the Hodag Country Festival at my restaurant last night," Representative Rob Swearingen (R-Rhinelander) of the 34th Wisconsin Assembly District said, referring to his dinner club Al-Gen. "We were just slammed and that's all due in part to what's going on behind me."
Swearingen said the collaboration between the OCTC and the Wisconsin Department of Tourism had been going on for a long time, and were recipients of Joint Effort Marketing (JEM) grants.
"This is the culmination effort of what's going on," Swearingen said. "So this is exciting stuff for the Northwoods. Any time you revitalize your brand is a good thing, so I'm anxious to see what this will bring. I will say that Oneida County - and the Northwoods in general - is the gem of the State of Wisconsin."
In 2018 alone, visitors to Oneida County brought in $22.8 million in tax revenue, spending about $237.4 million, making the county ranked highest in the Northwoods for visitor spending in 2018 and 16th overall in the state.
"As you've heard, tourism is a really big deal in the State of Wisconsin and is a particularly large deal here in the Northwoods," Wisconsin Department of Tourism Secretary-Designee Sara Meaney said. "Tourism is actually Wisconsin's third largest industry when you look at it."
Meaney said the Wisconsin Department of Tourism had a lot of "things in the works," including a strategic plan to guide smart thinking and intentional investment in growing for the future that essentially bolsters and enhances on the state's existing strengths.
One example, Meaney said, was the Office of Outdoor Recreation created through the state budget recently signed by Governor Tony Evers. Though the concept isn't new nationally, Wisconsin is the second state in the Midwest to have an Office of Outdoor Recreation, Meaney said, mentioning many of the other states whose major tourism economic drivers were related to outdoor recreation found it to be a "very successful strategy."
"It shouldn't be surprising to any of us in the room, or anybody in the state, that people love to come to Wisconsin for our outdoor recreation," Meaney said. "It's the number one reported reason people come to Wisconsin."
Meaney said ]by being more organized, by bringing together for-profit, non-profit, local and state-level government entities and resources, the state could be even more competitive, strategic, and hopefully beat out "those neighbors to the East and West who may think they're doing it better than we are."
"Ultimately, our goal is to leverage that Office of Outdoor Recreation for greater growth, jobs, businesses and visitors to the State of Wisconsin, which will ultimately mean more prosperity for our Wisconsin residents," Meaney said.
Kayla Houp may be reached via email at email@example.com.
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