Direct tourism spending in 2017 across Wisconsin rose 3.17 percent over 2016, to $12.7 billion, according to numbers released Friday by the state Department of Tourism. Milwaukee County led all counties with nearly $2 billion in direct spending, a 3 percent increase, while Dane County was second in direct spending at $1.2 billion, an increase of 2.7 percent. Sauk County, home to many of the attractions in Wisconsin Dells and Devil’s Lake State Park, was third at $1.1 billion, a 3.6 percent increase over the previous year.
It marks the eighth straight year of gains for the state in one of its signature industries that touches all 72 counties.
“The travel and hospitality industry continues to be crucial to our state and is consistently a top performing sector of our economy,” Gov. Scott Walker said in a statement announcing the figures. “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 and do business.”
Gov. Walker and Tourism Secretary Stephanie Klett were scheduled to tour the state Friday to tout the numbers with stops at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum in Wausau, the Title Town District in Green Bay, the Milwaukee County Zoo and in Chetek, where the governor will fish the Chetek Chain of Lakes on Saturday to help kick off the state’s fishing season.
Data for the annual report were compiled by Tourism Economics and Longwoods International, tourism research firms that study the market and conduct surveys to determine spending and visitor habits. The report noted that the number of visitors has, over each of the past four years, increased between 2 percent and 2.4 percent and that in 2017 about 110 million people took part in tourism activities. One in 13 jobs in the state is sustained by tourism, and overall business sales related to tourism rose 3.2 percent to $20.6 billion.
Three counties in the state had double-digit growth in direct tourism spending, led by Florence County where spending rose 16.7 percent to $5.7 million. In Eau Claire County, spending grew to $257 million, a 12.5 percent increase, while Chippewa County saw spending rise 10.5 percent to $98.4 million. Eight counties saw decreases in spending, including Adams County where spending was down 5.7 percent and Clark County, down 3.2 percent.
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