Tourism Tops $19.3 Billion in 2015

MADISON, Wis. – Governor Scott Walker is traveling throughout the state today to announce Wisconsin’s tourism economy topped $19.3 billion in 2015, a nearly $1 billion boost from $18.5 billion in 2014. The announcement kicks off this year’s National Travel and Tourism Week, which runs May 1-7. Governor Walker is joined by Department of Tourism Secretary Stephanie Klett in visiting MillerCoors in Milwaukee, the Elroy-Sparta Bike Trail in Kendall, the Mobile Marketing Center in Eau Claire, and Heritage Hill State Historical Park in Green Bay.

“Tourism has long been a significant contributor to Wisconsin’s economy, and this year is no different,” Governor Walker said. “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. With over 10,000 inland lakes and numerous other tourist destinations, like classic Wisconsin supper clubs, it’s no wonder Wisconsin is a leading tourist destination for people across the nation.”

Key Results:

The total five year growth of tourism activity in the state is $4.5 billion, a 30 percent increase according to Tourism Economics, the Oxford Economics company providing analyses of the tourism sector for the Department of Tourism. Visitor volume for the same period is up 12.7 million from 92.5 million to 105.2 million in 2015.

A more than 20 percent decline in gas prices last year resulted in lower transportation costs for visitors and increased spending on lodging, retail, recreations, and restaurants. Lodging, which makes up 26 percent of visitor spending, showed the strongest growth of 7.3 percent. Visitors spent over $3 billion on food and beverage, the 2nd largest sector of the tourism economy. Traveler spending on retail grew by 5.2 percent compared to 2.4 percent growth in 2014.

Tourism supported 190,717 jobs directly and indirectly in Wisconsin’s labor market in 2015. The growth of tourism has resulted in 18,717 additional jobs supported by tourism, an 11 percent increase, over the last five years. Visitors generated $1.5 billion in state and local revenue, saving Wisconsin taxpayers $640 per household. The state report and individual county information figures are also available here.

“These results let us know that what we have been doing over the last five years is working,” said Secretary Klett. “It’s a tremendous credit to the tourism industry in all 72 counties and the innovative work they do to create exciting vacation experiences, market their destinations under our united brand of fun, and provide great customer service that makes travelers want to return to Wisconsin time and again.”

The Power of Tourism Advertising in Wisconsin:

According to Longwoods International, a globally-recognized leader in travel research, for every $1 the Department spent on its 2015 summer and fall advertising campaigns, $8 was returned to state and local governments in incremental tax revenue. This is the highest return on investment since the Department of Tourism began commissioning the research from Longwoods International.

Among its Midwest competitors, Wisconsin ranks 1st in outdoor recreation, family atmosphere, affordability, and uniqueness. The Department of Tourism recently released two new television commercials for 2016 that take the tourism brand of fun to the next level by making Wisconsin the star and showcasing the state’s core tourism strengths of scenic locations, outdoor recreation, and iconic food experiences.

According to surveys conducted by Longwoods International, tourism influences perceptions of Wisconsin. 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. This demonstrates the impact tourism has on the state’s image from an economic development perspective.

About the Department of Tourism:

The mission of the Wisconsin Department of Tourism is to market the state as the Midwest’s premier travel destination for fun by executing industry-leading marketing programs and establishing strategic partnerships. The Department of Tourism plays a significant role in generating greater economic impact and jobs for Wisconsin. The portal for traveler information can be found here.