EL tourism continues to grow

by Emmitt B. Feldner of The Review staff

ELKHART LAKE – The village’s original industry remains a growth industry.

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

“Elkhart Lake tourism had a very good year in 2015,” Eickhoff told the trustees. “We’ve been growing every year.”

She noted that room tax revenue grew by 7.75 percent from the previous year, to $563,818 – equivalent to $9,396,966 in overnight sales, according to Eickhoff.

“We’re seeing that have a ripple effect on businesses in the village. That builds the tax base and employment in the village,” Eickhoff explained.

One of the Tourism Commission’s major initiatives last year was unveiling a new website, Eickhoff said.

“If your website has been around for three to five years and hasn’t had updating in that time, you’re probably not serving the tourists you want to reach,” she related.

“One of the the biggest things we wanted to accomplish was a site that was mobile-friendly,” Eickhoff said of the new website design. “We want the customer experience to be well received at every touchpoint.”

The commission is utlizing the Internet and social media to reach specifically targeted markets, such as brides/wedding parties and business meetings, Eickhoff noted.

“You’re going to see that really explode in 2016,” Eickhoff predicted of the business meeting market, pointing to the completion of expanded meeting facilities at The Osthoff resort.

“We’ve been attempting to grow our summer bookings, especially in midweek,” Eickhoff said, adding that the effort is showing results.

The commission has developed an image and video library to help promote tourism and continues to expand both. Eickhoff shared several of the videos with board.

“Elkhart Lake is perfect for video,” Eickhoff said. “We’re using that in the Milwaukee and Chicago markets.”

Eickhoff said the commission continues to utilize cooperative marketing and media tours to get the biggest impact for advertising dollars and garner free advertising and promotion from media sharing Elkhart Lake vacation experiences.

Coverage generated by the media tours over the years has reached more than 22 million readers and provided the equivalent of more than $2 million in advertising for the village.

“The reason (tourism) is growing is because you’re reinvesting in promotion,” Trustee Lynn Shovan observed.

Trustee Richard Baumann, the board’s representative on the Tourism Commission, reported that the village will be featured in Fox Cities magazine’s annual Worth the Drive issue in July, which highlights destinations within a day’s drive of the Fox Cities.

Village President Alan Rudnick reported that the Administration and Finance Committee is making progress on its review of the village’s liquor license ordinance.

“We’re getting very close on that,” Rudnick told the board. “We’ve got a couple of questions left, then we’re going to put it up,” for review for the full board. The goal is to have the revised ordinance ready for action in April or early May.

“By the time the next licensing cycle comes up,” Shovan noted.

The board approved a resolution discontinuing an alley between Osthoff Avenue and Lincoln Street. Village Administrator/Clerk/Treasurer Jessica Reilly said easement agreements still have to be worked out between the adjacent property owners.

Reilly said downtown road projects are tentatively scheduled for Sept. 19, the day after the Fall Vintage Weekend is over. The list includes South Lake Street, South East Street, Elm Street, Square Street, West Rhine Street and the village parking lot.

Rudnick said the Planning Commission had reviewed a site plan, parking and renditions for the planned Victory Auto Sales building.

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