Tourism worth $17.5 billion for Wisconsin

Joe Leibham • 9th Senatorial District

As summer approaches, or so we hope, many Wisconsin businesses are ramping up to prepare for visitors and guests. Tourism in Wisconsin is a $17.5 billion business! In 2013, the economic impact of tourism grew by $700 million over 2012 with the total three year growth of tourism activity coming in over $2.7 billion!

Over the past month, our local tourism-industry prepared for the coming season by gathering for Tourism Breakfasts and Luncheons to celebrate their successes in 2013 and rally for 2014. I was honored to be included in these discussions and always enjoy learning more about local plans to welcome visitors to the 9th Senate District and beyond.

Those of us who live in Wisconsin know how wonderful our state is. We have unparalleled natural resources, amazing experiences, fine hospitality and activities for just about everyone. As a result, Wisconsin had more than 100 million visits from travelers in 2013. Tourism generated $1.35 billion in state and local revenue and $1 billion in federal taxes. This saves the average household in Wisconsin $590 per year, if we had to replace the dollars received by state and local governments!

As your State Senator, I support investing in tourism. For every $1 the Department of Tourism spent on summer and fall advertising in 2013, $6 dollars was returned to the state in additional tax revenue. This return on our investment is impressive. Any business would be proud of this achievement.

The Wisconsin Department of Tourism works with local tourism-industry partners in our communities to promote the small (and large) businesses that are part of the industry state-wide. The department provides many grants for marketing.

In 2013, the department funded 56 Joint Effort Marketing (JEM) projects worth $1.2 million to generate $36 million in visitor expenditures. These grants help local businesses and organizations pay for e-mail marketing, print and broadcast ads, direct mail, publicity, and billboards.

The department also creates collaborative programs and offers visitors one-stop planning tools on their website. Programs like “Travel Green Wisconsin” and “Roads To Wellness” highlight similar opportunities statewide in a way that resonates with travelers. Visits to and its app totaled 4.1 million in 2013, up 25%. In addition, the department helps regional destinations work together to expose visitors to all of the incredible attractions, places to eat, stay and play, as well as stores to shop.

Every season, the department has worked with local tourist destinations to craft a message for visitors that promotes and highlights the best parts of Wisconsin.

From skiing and snowmobiling to our state parks and secluded cabins to world-class golf and relaxing spas, the department is focusing on making Wisconsin the fun place to stay.

As the summer begins and travelers flock to our state, I am proud of the effort by the Wisconsin Department of Tourism to promote an industry that brings people to our communities.

Beyond the direct economic impact of tourism spending, the exposure we receive also has the opportunity to encourage other industries to locate in our state.

Every visitor we have tells our story: Wisconsin is a great place to live, work and play!

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