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Traveler spending tops $20.6 billion in 2017

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.

by New North B2B staff

June 2018

A more than 3 percent growth in visitor spending statewide during 2017 pushed the economic impact of Wisconsin’s tourism industry to a record $20.61 billion and 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 Wisconsin Department of Tourism.

Tourism’s total economic impact on Wisconsin last year reached $20.6 billion compared to $20.0 billion during 2016. Since 2011, the state’s tourism economy has experienced a nearly 40 percent rate of growth from the $14.8 billion in tourism economic impact recorded at that time.

Overall, direct visitor spending increased from $12.3 billion a year ago to $12.7 billion in 2017.

Another industry indicator includes visitor growth in 2017 topping 110 million, up nearly 2 percent from a year ago and an increase of 17.5 million visitors since the estimated 2011 volume of 92.5 million visitors.

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, which were led by growth in spending on recreational activities travelers choose to do on vacation. Overall, recreation revenues had the fastest rate of growth during the past year, increased by 5.5 percent during 2017.

According to the economic impact study released in May, tourism supported nearly 195,255 jobs and more than $5.3 billion in personal income across the state.

In total, visitor spending generated $1.5 billion in state and local tax revenue during 2017.

Closer to home

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

• Visitor spending in Outagamie County increased 3 percent to $348 million in 2017. This direct spending is estimated to have sustained 6,395 jobs in the tourism industry and provided almost $164 million in income for Outagamie County residents. Visitor spending also generated an estimated $43.4 million in state and local taxes during 2017. 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 nearly 2 percent to $470 million in total visitor spending during 2017. The CVB reported visitor spending in the Fox Cities was led by $142 million in spending in the food and beverage sector, followed by spending on lodging of $107 million and retail segment revenues of $98 million.

• In Brown County, visitor spending climbed 5 percent to $671 million in 2017, ultimately supporting an estimated 11,877 jobs in the tourism industry and providing $448 million in income for local residents. Total visitor spending generated an estimated $94.7 million in state and local taxes in 2017, an increase of 4 percent from the previous year.

• Visitor spending in Winnebago County decreased a bit less than 1 percent to $241 million during 2017. This direct spending supported an estimated 4,806 jobs across the county and provided an estimated $131.8 million in paychecks for Winnebago County residents. Visitor spending generated an estimated $30.6 million in state and local taxes in 2017, which was relatively flat with the year prior.

• Rounding out the region, visitor spending in Fond du Lac County increased 4 percent to $147 million in 2017, sustaining an estimated 2,698 jobs in the tourism industry and provided $65.2 million in payroll for Fond du Lac County residents. In 2017, total visitor spending generated an estimated $18.4 million in state and local taxes in Fond du Lac County.