Traveler spending boosts region’s economy in 2015

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Story by B2B Staff

For the millions of travelers visiting Wisconsin, it’s all about the fun and memories, but for state residents, those memories translate into jobs, paychecks and tax revenue for local government.

In 2015, a 4.3 percent growth in the tourism economy statewide equated to an increase in tourism-related employment and personal income, according to a statewide economic impact study conducted by Tourism Economics, a research firm commissioned by the state Department of Tourism.

Tourism had a total economic impact of $19.3 billion on Wisconsin last year compared to $18.5 billion in 2014. Since 2010, the state’s tourism economy has experienced a 30 percent growth from the $14.8 billion in tourism economic impact recorded six years ago.

Overall, direct visitor spending increased from $11.4 billion a year ago to more than $11.9 billion in 2015.

Another industry indicator includes visitor growth in 2015 topping 105 million, up 3 percent from a year ago and an increase of more than 12 million more visitors since the 2011 estimated volume of 92.7 million visitors.

Officials from the Department of Tourism said lower gasoline prices during the past year meant transportation costs took a smaller share of the travel budget, allowing for strong growth in all non-transportation segments, led by growth in spending on lodging. Overall, room demand increased an estimated 2.1 percent across the state during 2015 – and when combined with higher prices – increased lodging revenues by 7.5 percent to more than $2.5 billion statewide.

According to the economic impact study released in May, tourism supported nearly 190,700 jobs and more than $5 billion in personal income across the state.

In total, visitor spending generated more than $1.5 billion in state and local tax revenue in 2015.

Closer to home

Local tourism figures continue to increase across northeast Wisconsin as well. The recent economic impact report from Tourism Economics unveiled the following:

• Visitor spending in Outagamie County increased 3 percent to $335 million in 2015. This direct spending is estimated to have sustained 6,417 jobs in the tourism industry and provided $163 million in income for Outagamie County residents. Visitor spending also generated an estimated $42.6 million in state and local taxes during 2015. Reports from the Fox Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau indicated visitor spending in its Fox Cities service region – which aggregates tourism impact figures from portions of Outagamie, Winnebago and Calumet counties – increased 5 percent to $456 million in total visitor spending during 2015.

• In Brown County, visitor spending climbed 4 percent to nearly $614 million in 2015, ultimately supporting an estimated 11,293 jobs in the tourism industry and provided $416 million in income for local residents. Total visitor spending generated an estimated $86.7 million in state and local taxes last year.

• Visitor spending in Winnebago County jumped nearly 5 percent to $234 million in 2015. This direct spending supported an estimated 4,824 jobs across the county and provided $128 million in income for Winnebago County residents. Visitor spending generated an estimated $30 million in state and local taxes during 2015.

• Rounding out the region with the highest year-over-year rate of growth, visitor spending in Fond du Lac County increased more than 10 percent to $132 million in 2015, sustaining an estimated 2,574 jobs in the tourism industry and provided $59 million in payroll for Fond du Lac County residents. Total visitor spending generated $17 million in state and local taxes in Fond du Lac County last year.