Tourism growth continues in Elkhart Lake

by Emmitt B. Feldner of The Review staff

ELKHART LAKE – Tourism growth in the village is ahead of schedule.

Tourism Director Kathleen Eickhoff made her annual report to the Village Board Monday and reported continued strong revenue in 2012.

“I’m happy to report that, based on present course, we’re are looking to achieve our goal at the end of 2015, in four years instead of five,” Eickhoff said.

That goal, set in 2012. was to increase tourism revenue by a total of 20 percent in five years.

The village took in nearly half a million dollars in room tax revenues in 2013, according to Eickhoff. That translates to almost $8 million in overnight sales at the village’s resorts, hotels and inns.

The current expansion of the meeting space at The Osthoff resort will be a huge boost as well, she said.

“I talked to their sales staff and they are already receiving a lot of interest and booking increasing for 2015,” Eickhoff told the board.

The expansion will be completed later this year, she said, but the true impact should come in 2015.

Summer continues to be the strongest season for tourism, which is also when lodging establishments get their highest rates of return, Eickhoff explained.

The Tourism Commission continues to work on increasing midweek bookings in the summer and year-round. The stay two days, get a third free during the week promotion offered by resorts last year was successful, she said.

“It’s clear that’s bringing in new customers, many from Chicago, which is one of our targets,” Eickhoff noted. “Elkhart Lake is really a good value for Chicagoans.

That effort was boosted by the

Tourism Commission’s first purchase of billboard space in the Chicago area last year. “We wanted to dip our toe in there,” Eickhoff said.

Another aid to boosting tourism is the ongoing hosting of tours of the village for travel and food writers.

Over the past three years, Elkhart Lake has hosted 129 regional, national and syndicated journalists from the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.

Those writers have generated online and magazine stories that have reached a total of almost 15 million readers, Eickhoff stated. That translates to more than $1 million worth of advertising if the village had had to purchase the magazine and online space.

“Our public relations efforts are having a positive effect,” Eickhoff explained.

The board indicated it will sign a contract with Advanced Disposal for garbage collection in the village for at least the next five years, but directed Village Administrator/ Clerk/Treasurer Jessica Reilly to continue negotiating with Advanced for rates and other terms.

Reilly said Advanced is proposing an increase in the rate from $10.60 to $11.50 per household.

The village is also looking for clarification on the garbage bins that Advanced will be requiring village residents to utilize in the future. That includes what size the bins will be.

The board gave permission for Community United Church of Christ to hold a brat fry at the Depot Friday, July 18. But trustees asked church officials to work with the business owners renting space in the Depot.

“Last year, they had an issue with you blocking the Depot entrance,” Village President Alan Rudnick told a church representative.

Trustee Michael Wolf, reporting for the Public Works Committee, said there was some freezing in the village’s water tower but “it seems to be working its way through.”

He also said the committee will look at rebidding street construction work for 2014. “We’re looking at maybe doing a little bit heavier surfacing to improve longevity,” Wolf explained.

The board approved a $13,000 contract for the Fourth of July fireworks during the annual Fireman’s Picnic.

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