Wisconsin’s tourism industry rises to $18.5 billion

Wisconsin’s tourism industry topped $18.5 billion in 2014, a $1 billion boost from $17.5 billion in 2013.

The 5.5 percent increase was spurred by a rise in both visits and spending per trip.  The tourism industry continues to show stable, long-term growth.

“The travel and hospitality industry continues to be an important and strong performing sector for Wisconsin’s economy,” said Gov. Scott Walker.  “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 the state as a place to live and do business.”

The total four year growth of tourism activity is $3.7 billion, up from $14.8 billion in 2010, a 25 percent increase according to Tourism Economics, the research firm for the Department of Tourism.  Visitor growth in Wisconsin in 2014 topped 102 million, an increase of 7 million visits since 2010.  Other positive industry indicators included a 5.3 percent increase in per trip spending. That was led by recreation and entertainment, with a 7.8 percent increase, followed by lodging (7.2 percent), and food and beverage (6.4 percent). The lodging sector had a robust year with room demand growing 3.5 percent and average room rates increasing 3.7 percent.  This was the strongest year for Wisconsin lodging properties since 2011. 

Tourism supports 187,643 jobs, adding more than 6,200 jobs to Wisconsin’s total employment since 2011.  Visitors generated $1.4 billion in state and local revenue, saving Wisconsin taxpayers $620 per household. This is the first time in four years that all 72 counties posted a positive increase in visitor spending.

“We are pleased to report that the overall strength and growth of tourism in Wisconsin continues to have positive impact on the economy,” said Wisconsin Tourism Secretary Stephanie Klett.  “What’s more is research shows that tourism advertising goes beyond just promoting vacations, it also boosts the state’s overall image.  Our marketing campaigns and the vacations that result influence how people think about Wisconsin as a great place to live, find a job, open a business, buy a home, or go to college.”

Longwoods International conducted surveys to measure how tourism advertising and visitation affect consumers’ perception of the state.  Travelers who have visited Wisconsin in the past two years rate the state much higher in attributes such as a good place to live, start a business, attend college, or purchase a retirement home than those who have not visited the state.

According to Longwoods International, for every $1 the Department of Tourism spent on its 2014 summer and fall advertising campaigns, $6 was returned to state and local governments in incremental tax revenue. 

The Department of Tourism launched a TV ad campaign in March featuring University of Wisconsin-Madison basketball coach Bo Ryan. The spot aired during the Big Ten and NCAA Championships and has been viewed online more than 526,000 times, a record for any ad in the Department’s history. In addition, last year’s public relations efforts generated a record $114 million in earned media and 5 million users visited TravelWisconsin.com, an increase of 146 percent.

The full summer campaign, which includes TV and cinema, print ads, traditional and online radio spots, and digital executions, was launched May 4 in Wisconsin, northern Illinois and the Twin Cities.

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