Tourism remains growth industry for EL, board learns

by Emmitt B. Feldner of The Review staff

ELKHART LAKE – The news continues to be good for the village’s major industry.

Director of Tourism Kathleen Eickhoff made her annual report to the Village Board Monday and it was an upbeat report.

“2014 was a very good year for Elkhart Lake tourism,” Eickhoff told the trustees.

Eickhoff explained that the Tourism Commission had set a five-year goal in 2011 to increase overnight room sales – and room tax revenue – by 20 percent to $8.568 million in rooms sales.

“I’m happy to report we have met that goal in year three,” she told the board.

“In 2014 lodging partners generated $523,332.63 in room tax, equivalent to $8,722,201.48 in overnight sales, a 9 percent increase from 2013,” Eickhoff wrote in her report.

“But we’re not resting on our laurels,” Eickhoff assured the board. “We also know there is a lot more to do. We know there is room to grow.

“Summer sales give us our biggest return on our investment,” Eickhoff said, and tourism officials continue to work to boost business in the off-seasons. Chief among those are wedding and meeting business, Eickhoff said, and efforts in those areas are paying off.

“Our wedding requests have really jumped up since we increased our social media effort,” Eickhoff said.

The recent meeting room expansion at The Osthoff resort has helped boost meeting sales, she added. “We’re working with their sales staff and they’re telling me they’re booking out into 2020.”

Eickhoff also touted the positive impact of media tours for regional, national and syndicated travel and food journalists. Those efforts reach an average of more than 5 million people a year and the equivalent of more than $400,000 worth of advertising space, according to Eickhoff.

The board also heard annual reports from Fire Chief Pat Zorn and First Responders Capt. Lisa Holzmann.

Zorn’s report including introduction of two new brochures the department has printed for information and recruiting purposes. Zorn assured the board that no taxpayers funds were used for the brochures, which were paid for with proceeds of department fundraisers.“We’re trying to get more recruits, which is tough without schooling,” Zorn told the board.

The department has 32 members – 24 from the village and eight from the town of Rhine. In 2014, the department responded to 57 fire calls, 13 mutual aid calls and seven radio drills.

“We’ve done quite a bit this year,” Holzmann said in her First Responders report. The major item was the addition of an emergency response bicycle, she said.

The unit also put an inflatable rehab shelter into service last year. Holzmann said the portable shelter can be used by the First Responders, fire department or police department in an emergency situation.

The First Responders will be looking to raise money this year to replace about 20 defibrillator units that need updating, Holzmann added. That includes the units carried by each of the First Responders, along with two in the schools and the ones carried by the Police Department. The current models are no longer being serviced by the company that made them, she said.

The First Responders had 158 calls in 2014 – 93 in the village and 61 in the town of Rhine, plus two mutual aid calls out of area and two fire rehab calls.

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