Numbers released last week from the Wisconsin Department of Tourism show Marquette County received similar tourism revenues in 2019 compared to 2018.
Statewide, Wisconsin reported some $22.2 billion in total business sales in 2019, an increase of $651.8 million over the previous year. Direct visitor spending reached $13.6 billion last year, up some $349 million from 2018.
Here in Marquette County, total business sales reached $35.7 million in 2019, up just $500,000 from 2018. Direct visitor spending was listed at $23.1 million last year, a slight increase of about $100,000.
Marquette County ranks 63rd among Wisconsin counties in terms of direct visitor spending.
Employment related to tourism remained steady in Marquette County, which reported a total of 297 jobs last year, with a total income of $5.2 million.
State and local taxes collected also remained steady at $2.7 last year in Marquette County, with a slight decrease of about half a percent.
According to Marquette County Economic Development and Tourism Coordinator Keri Solis, the county had seen tourism growth in previous years and has adjusted marketing accordingly. “We keep an eye on what is working and driving people to the website and generating interest in the area. Social media is the biggest driver, so for 2020 the Visitor’s Bureau budgeted more towards those efforts.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected plans for marketing this year, as the spring marketing campaign had to be set aside due to the Safer at Home order. Instead, a focus was put on promoting the businesses that were able to be open and putting out the message that Marquette County businesses couldn’t wait to see people return to the area when it was safe to do so. Solis stated that the Visitor’s Bureau will be discussing budget adjustments and changes to marketing this week.
Statewide, employment tourism related business employed 202,217 full- and part-time persons last year, up from 199,073 in 2018. That number indicates one out of every 18 jobs in Wisconsin are connected to tourism, according to the Department of Tourism. Labor income for this group rose 4 percent to $5.9 billion last year. State and local taxes also increased 1.79% to $1.6 billion.
Last week was National Travel & Tourism Week, and while a press release described Wisconsin’s numbers as, “a banner year,” Department of Tourism Secretary-designee Sara Meaney acknowledged, “We know that 2020 will not look like 2019. But the good news is that on the heels of a record year for Wisconsin travel and tourism, the state has shown itself to be an increasingly sought-after destination, which gives the department confidence that it remains on the radar as a preferred destination for visitors. I encourage you to take pause and honor the work that generated the positive news of 2019 as we look forward to supporting this important industry when it is safe to travel again.”
The Department of Tourism encourages Wisconsinites to embrace the spirit of travel by supporting local businesses and helping their neighbors.
“Although we can’t meet in person, we are seeing our residents staying connected, unified and supportive of each other from afar. When the time is right, the travel and tourism industry will be integral in healing our state’s economy. But it is the spirit of travel that will heal our morale,” added Meaney.
Nearby counties had mixed reports for 2019. Adams County reported a 1% drop in total business sales at $275.5 million and a 2.35% loss in direct visitor spending at $213.4.
Columbia County showed a .32% increase in total business sales last year with $203.8 million, but a 1% drop in direct visitor spending at $138.1 million.
Green Lake County took a huge hit, dropping almost 9% in total business sales to $58.8 million, and dropping 15.4% in direct visitor spending to $36.2 million, the steepest declines by far among Wisconsin’s 72 counties. Much of that was attributed by the Green Lake County Visitors Bureau to the closing of The Heidel House resort in Green Lake last year.
Waushara County saw a 1.67% increase in total business sales to $105.1 million, along with an almost 1% increase in direct visitor spending to $75.6 million.