For the travelers that helped Wisconsin achieve over 100 million visits in 2013, it’s all about the fun and memories. For the state’s tourism industry, it’s big business. And for taxpayers and residents, it’s all about jobs and tax revenue those travelers generate. A study conducted by Tourism Economics shows the impact of tourism on the state’s economy was $17.5 billion in 2013, up 4% from the previous year.
The economic impact that tourism plays in Merrill is not generally a hot topic of discussion, but ask any hotel or retail business owner and they will tell you they feel the impact of visitor spending. Visitors spend money on hotels, gasoline, at restaurants, shops and on rentals. Tourism spending isn’t only based on events and festivals; day-tourism is also important and growing. Day visitors like to come to our parks, trails, shops, sporting activities, museum and restaurants. Combine event and day-tourism spending and the local economic impacts are tremendous.
Locally, travelers to Lincoln County spent $50.72 million in 2013. Among the contributing factors for local tourism growth was an increase in Merrill’s destination marketing campaign that focused on our area’s unique natural resources, festivals and events. Merrill’s Tourism Commission also uses its room tax money effectively by granting dollars to local organizations that host events for marketing outside of the Merrill area.
“Tourism plays a critical role in our community and continues to grow, and from an economic standpoint, the numbers reflect that,” said Debbe Kinsey, Chamber CEO and administrator for the Tourism Commission. “Last year’s numbers are very encouraging and we hope to capitalize on this momentum in the coming summer and fall seasons by continuing our promotional campaigns that are defining Merrill’s brand and targeting potential visitors with messages and events that make them accept our invitation to ‘visit’ or ‘park it in Merrill’.”
Besides increasing the number and types of destination marketing promotions and ads, the Chamber also added the new blue state Tourism Information signage in Merrill directing visitors to the Visitor Information Center located at the Chamber. “Our information center has also grown now hosting 85 different Wisconsin visitor guides, plus State of Wisconsin guides and maps, Lincoln County trail maps and information and local Merrill attraction and business information. The center is open 24/7, with an unbelievable traffic count,” concluded Kinsey.
Statewide, traveler spending generated $1.35 billion in state and local revenue and $1 billion in federal taxes.
“The past three years have been outstanding for Wisconsin’s tourism industry. Tourism had a $17.5 billion economic impact, a $2.7 billion increase in tourism activity since 2010,” said Department of Tourism Secretary Stephanie Klett. “Tourism continues to be one of Wisconsin’s most important economic resources and investing in tourism promotion and marketing at both the state and local level is one of the best things a state can do to attract visitors, enhance the state’s image and keep the economy growing.”
The Department of Tourism worked with a national research firm Longwoods International and Tourism Economics to produce the reports.