Visitors spent more than $219 in Vilas County and over $$229 in Oneida County in 2017, according to figures released by the state Department of Tourism. 

Meanwhile, Gov. Scott Walker and Tourism Secretary Stephanie Klett traveled throughout the state to highlight Wisconsin’s tourism economy, which reached $20.6 billion in 2017. This marks a $631 million boost from $20 billion in 2016. 

In Vilas County, the tourist dollars spent in 2017 marked a $24 million growth in the county in the last six years alone.

Direct visitor spending reached $219.3 million in Vilas County last year, a 3.18% increase over the $212.5 million spent in 2016.

“These numbers provide Vilas County with the baseline needed to compare our yearly visitor expenditures,” said Cindy Burzinski, director of Vilas County Tourism & Publicity. “Tourism continues to be a cornerstone of the Vilas County economy as these expenditures directly or indirectly affect almost every person in the county.”

Tourism is Vilas County’s largest industry, helping support 1,961 jobs in 2017, an increase of 1.05% over the 1,941 jobs tourism spending was responsible for in 2016 Those workers earned $44 million in 2017, up from $42.2 million in 2016.

Visitor spending also accounted for $22.3 million in state and local taxes last year, up 2.37% from 2016.

“Tourism expenditures in 2017 again proved to be solid,” said Burzinski. “Partnerships go hand in hand in creating a successful tourism promotion. That’s why the Vilas County Tourism & Publicity Department maintains a close partnership with the county chambers, trail groups and stewards of our public lands and waters.”

Tourism spending in Oneida County has increased by more than $44 million since 2012. Tourism spending in Oneida County jumped from $221.8 million in 2016 to $229.8 million in 2017 — a 3.64% increase.

Tourism expenditures in Oneida County also helped support 2,208 jobs in 2017, a 1.61% increase over 2,173 jobs 2016. Those workers earned $52.2 million in 2017, up from $50.4 million in 2016. 

Money spent at hotels, restaurants and other businesses catering to travelers accounted for $22.4 million in state and local taxes in Oneida County, a 2.795% increase over 2016’s total of $21.8 million.

Sarah Flashing, executive director at the Three Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce said it’s exciting to learn from the Wisconsin Department of Tourism that tourism spending is increasing in the Nort Woods, particularly in OneidCounty. 

“We’ve been working diligently at the Three Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce to put more of our focus on destination marketing strategies while working alongside our Oneida County partners to make a broader impact on where families choose to spend their vacation time and dollars,” said Flashing.

Flashing said Three Lakes is a year-round community that depends on tourism dollars. 

“Due to our marketing efforts and the overall economic landscape of Wisconsin, I expect we’ll see more positive reports on the spending habits of tourists in the coming months,” said Flashing. 

Forest County saw its direct visitor spending drop slightly from $13.8 million in 2016 to $13.6 million in 2017.

Some highlights

In order to maintain a strong marketing campaign and reach all age groups, Vilas County Tourism promotes the area through many different channels, according to Burzinski.

She said some of the highlights from 2017 included:

• Addition of snowmobile trail routes to the Map It Vilas County trails app (a free mobile app that helps visitors explore Vilas County’s trails and includes GPS functionality).

• Three videography and photography shoots covering 16 Vilas County activities across 10 communities, the products of which were used to create TV commercials, digital advertising, social media posts, the annual visitor guide and promotional print materials.

“Promoting tourism in Vilas County is an easy task when we have so many outdoor recreational opportunities, inviting and fun businesses, strong organizations and cooperative chambers,” said Theresa Smith, executive director of the Boulder Junction Chamber. “We should all be proud of our successes as the increase in economic impact we are seeing has a positive impact on all of those that work, live and own businesses in Vilas County.”

Statewide numbers

Statewide, tourism expenditures reached $20.6 billion in 2017, according to Walker.

“Wisconsin’s travel and hospitality industry is booming,” said Walker. “Our tourism industry continues to be crucial to our state and is consistently a top performing sector of our economy. Investing in tourism promotion and marketing at the national, state and local level is not only an effective way to attract visitors and grow the economy, it also enhances the image of Wisconsin as a great place to live, work and do business.”

Last year’s visitor volumes topped 110 million visits, an increase of 17.5 million, compared to 92.5 million in 2011. Tourism supported a total of 195,255 jobs statewide in 2017, up from 172,000 in 2011, a 13.5% increase.

“For seven years in a row, Wisconsin’s tourism industry has had a positive impact on the economy and job growth,” said Klett. “Research shows us that the increased investment in marketing the brand of fun positively influences the way people think about Wisconsin as a top to place to vacation, work, live, attend college and own a second home.”

Visitation to the state and tourism marketing positively influence people’s perceptions of Wisconsin. According to surveys conducted by Longwoods International, 57% of those surveyed who saw Wisconsin’s tourism ad campaign and visited the state strongly agree that the state is a good place to live versus 21% of those who had not seen the advertising and had never visited the state.

Key findings

Some key numbers from the tourism survey include:

• The total seven-year growth of tourism activity in the state is $5.8 billion, a nearly 40% increase, according to Tourism Economics, the research firm for the Department of Tourism.

• Visitor volumes topped 110 million visits, an increase of 17.5 million, compared to 92.5 million seven years ago. This is a 19% increase since 2011.

• Traveler spending on recreation, which includes all activities travelers choose to do on vacation, had the fastest growth at 5.5% in 2017.

• Tourism directly and indirectly supported 195,255 jobs in Wisconsin’s labor market in 2016.

• The growth of tourism over the last seven years has helped add 23,255 jobs, a 13.5 percent increase.

• Visitors generated $1.5 billion in state and local revenue and $1.2 billion in federal taxes, saving Wisconsin taxpayers $660 per household. Individual county information figures also are available.