Wisconsin's tourism economy continues to hum

There were kayak trips around the Apostle Islands, dining, golf and waterpark visits in Wisconsin Dells, and concerts and basketball games at the new $524 million Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee.

In Dane County, visitors strolled around the state Capitol, biked the hills around Mount Horeb and came from around the world for events at Monona Terrace, UW-Madison, Alliant Energy Center and Epic Systems Corp. in Verona.

And all of it helped Wisconsin to its ninth straight year of positive gains in tourism, one of the pillars of the state’s economy.

Direct tourism spending in 2018 increased 4.86% to $13.3 billion with an overall economic impact of $21.5 billion, an increase of 4.68%, according to a report released Monday by the state Department of Tourism. The state’s tourism industry accounted for 199,073 jobs, an increase of 1.67%, that paid out $5.5 billion in wages, an increase of 2.43%, while tourism also contributed $1.5 billion in state and local taxes, an increase of 2.6 percent over 2017.

But for data-driven Sara Meaney, the state’s Tourism Secretary designee, one of the growth categories she is trumpeting this week as she tours the state to tout the tourism numbers is the 4.9% increase in spending per visitor to $118. The number of visitors in 2018 grew by 2 million people over 2017 to 112.1 million.

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