Wisconsin has a record-breaking tourism season for second year in a row - TAI News
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Downtown Wausau, Wisconsin. (Wikideas1 / Wikimedia Commons)

Wisconsin brought in a record number of tourism dollars in 2023, according to a new report released on June 11 by the state’s Department of Tourism.

The state’s tourism industry generated $25 billion last year, breaking the record for a second year in a row. There were 113 million tourist visits to the state last year, and the highest-ever number of overnight visits. All 72 counties in the state saw a growth in tourism dollars last year, according to the report.

“Wisconsin has so much to offer, from waterslides to watersports, hiking trails to contrails, and world-champion sports teams to world-champion cheese, so it’s no wonder we’ve seen yet another record-breaking year for Wisconsin tourism for the second year in a row,” Democratic Gov. Tony Evers said in a statement.

According to the report, tourism in Wisconsin helped support more than 178,000 jobs last year and generated $1.6 billion in state and local tax revenue.

“This is news all Wisconsin residents can celebrate,” said Logan Wroge, senior communications specialist for the Wisconsin Department of Tourism. “Without the tax revenue generated by tourism spending, each Wisconsin household would pay an additional $660 to maintain the current level of government services.”

In recent years, the Wisconsin Department of Tourism, also known as Travel Wisconsin, has ramped up marketing for Wisconsin’s tourism scene, showcasing the state as a must-visit travel destination across the Midwest. State officials said this helped contribute to this record-breaking year, and in his last budget, Evers added roughly $34 million to increase the efforts through 2025.

“There has always been this aura about ‘Wisconsin nice,’” said Tim White, the executive director of the Wausau/Central Wisconsin Convention & Visitors Bureau. “Those of us in the industry try to authentically communicate that. When you know that guests are coming, you put in the effort to make them feel comfortable and taken care of. With our natural resources, cultural offerings and welcoming residents, this is a place people want to visit and revisit.”

The Wausau area attracted more tourists last year by promoting itself as Wisconsin’s ultimate outdoor basecamp at the base of Rib Mountain, with art and culture baked into tourists’ experience, including museums and live theater performances and farm-to-table meals and craft beers at the local restaurants and breweries.

“That branding combines the biggest draw to our area: outdoor recreation in all its forms, and basecamp comfort amenities like comfy lodging, good food, events, arts and culture offerings,” White said.

The state’s latest tourism boost will have ripple effects, White said, partly because it will encourage more people to live and work in Wisconsin, but also because it will benefit the local communities tourists are visiting.

“Destination development is concerned about quality of place, which means that communities get to benefit first from the industry – not only in the savings brought by tax revenue, but also real, tangible benefits like new trails, attractions and businesses,” he said.

In Stevens Point, the community drew more tourism dollars in 2023 by hosting more sporting events and conventions, investing more in marketing, and celebrating new and old developments in the area, according to Sara Brish, the executive director of the Stevens Point Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.

“Tourism continues to be a key economic driver in our local economy,” Brish said. “Regional tourism industry drives innovation, fosters community vibrancy, and fuels economic growth. And while travel creates memorable moments for visitors, it also props up small businesses and supports job opportunities right here in the Stevens Point Area.”

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