Growth industry

State's number-two man in tourism brings positive message to county
by Emmitt B. Feldner of The Review staff


Dave Fantle, deputy secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Tourism, brought an upbeat message of continued growth in the tourism industry statewide to the 2013 Sheboygan County Tourism Breakfast, held Thursday at Amore in Plymouth. — Review photo by Emmitt B. Feldner Dave Fantle, deputy secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Tourism, brought an upbeat message of continued growth in the tourism industry statewide to the 2013 Sheboygan County Tourism Breakfast, held Thursday at Amore in Plymouth. — Review photo by Emmitt B. Feldner PLYMOUTH – Wisconsin’s word for tourism is fun – and the numbers are backing that up.

Dave Fantle, deputy secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Tourism, delivered an upbeat message to the 2013 Sheboygan County Tourism Breakfast Thursday at Amore in Plymouth.

The breakfast, sponsored by the Tourism Alliance of Sheboygan County, helped mark National Travel and Tourism Week.

That industry, Fantle told the five dozen people at the breakfast, is an important one in Wisconsin and growing even more so.

He provided a snapshot of the numbers to back up that statement:

. Tourism brought $16.8 billion into the state economy in 2012, an increase of five percent over 2011.

. The tourism industry provides 184,000 jobs statewide, with a total of $4.5 billion in personal income and one in 13 jobs statewide rely on tourism.

. Tourism income in Sheboygan County was up six percent in 2012, to $91.2 million, ranking the county 14th among the 72 counties in the state in tourism.

He noted that this growth has come in spite of far fewer state dollars for tourism promotion than many neighboring states.

The department has leveraged that money in many different ways, Fantle said, including focusing on social media to deliver the tourism message and utilizing public relations efforts to promote the state.

The latter approach has worked well in Elkhart Lake, where the Tourism Commission has hosted a number of junkets for travel and food writers in the village that have generated a large number of favorable articles in print and online, according to Director of Tourism Kathleen Eickhoff.

His department has also turned away from creating new slogans each year, Fantle said. “The state is sloganed out. You can’t win with slogans.”

Instead, the department focused on the reasons tourists say they visit Wisconsin – to visit family, for rest and relaxation, and the number one reason – fun.

“The beauty of fun as a platform is that it allows us to tell funny stories,” Fantle told his audience. “It allows us to tell those stories one by one and we have the ability to not go stale by telling endless stories of fun.”

The department has taken advantage of another fun resource – celebrities with Wisconsin ties – in promoting tourism, he added.

The most recent is Milwaukee’s Zucker brothers, Jerry and David – directors of a number of classic film comedies from “Airplane” to “Ghost.”

Jerry Zucker’s first effort was a Winter Wonderland spot that devolved into a snowball fight amongst members of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.

His latest, airing now, features “Airplane” co-star Robert Hays in a summer fun promotion that winds up with Hays being literally fish-slapped.

Fantle noted that the commercial was praised by the Huffington Post as “the best tourism ad ever. It shows we’re not pretentious, we have a sense of humor and we’re willing to poke fun at ourselves.”

The next effort will be directed by David Zucker, Fantle revealed, and will star Green Bay Packer wide receiver Jordy Nelson in a spoof of “The Wizard of Oz.”

Fantle said the department concentrates the majority of its advertising efforts outside the state of Wisconsin. “We want to keep people reminded about what we have here in the state of Wisconsin. We put money in Chicago, for instance. We may not like their teams, but I’ve learned to love their license plates.”

He closed by likening his department’s efforts to “setting the plate” for local tourism partners.

“We set the table and you all serve the food,” Fantle characterized. “We bring them into the state and you get them into your places.”


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