Travelers contributed $16.8 billion to Wisconsin’s economy last year, including $61.6 million in Langlade County, according to a state tourism report released Friday.
The statewide numbers are up 5 percent from the year before. Langlade County posted a more modest 3 percent.
“These increases are due to a pro-active strategy that included partnering with our neighboring counties in regional marketing activities,” Chris Berry, director of the Langlade County Economic Development Corporation, said. “Some of those activities are participating in three sports shows highlighting all of our area’s attractions and trails as well as the creation of a Website.
The Wisconsin Department of Tourism said direct spending on food, lodging, transportation and other services accounted for $10.4 billion, with $43.3 million in Langlade County. Lodging was the biggest money-maker in 2012, accounting for 26 percent of tourists’ spending. Food and beverages came in second at 25 percent.
The report also said tourism supported about 184,000 Wisconsin jobs last year, or 7.8 percent of employment, with 511 in Langlade County. Gov. Scott Walker proposed increasing funding to promote tourism by 1.4 percent, or about $500,000, over the next two years.
“We have a variety of things in the mix to keep visitors in our County of Trails, including some pretty cool upcoming events,” Berry said. She pointed to the free fishing and all-terrain vehicle registration on June 1 and 2, with a countywide ride planned; the second annual Trail-Con, a conference for virtually anything associated with trails, in August, the 19th annual Wolfman Triathlon in September, and the 13th annual Lakes to Leave road bike tour in autumn.
Most tourists in Wisconsin were from the U.S., according to the report. Local tourism officials said many came from the Midwest during spring and fall seasons.
Only 6 percent of visitors came to Wisconsin from other nations, the report said, but Lake Geneva — a small city in Walworth County — saw an increase in the number of international guests, the area’s commerce chamber president, George Henerly, said.
Henerly said many international visitors came straight up Lake Geneva with their relatives in Chicago, who referred them to the pure Midwest experience the area can offer, including boating, picnic at the lake, more than 100 boutique restaurants at downtown, and numerous full-service resorts.
“They would park their cars, get a bike, relax a little bit and then ride on the boats.” Henerly said.
Still, Hernely said about 90 percent of the one million visitors came from areas within two hours of driving. They brought in $455 million in direct sales to the Walworth County.
Henerly said the county also saw more young visitors, probably due to its proximity to metropolitan areas. He said they plan to upgrade their parking services in downtown and near the lake in addition to focusing on promotions.
The northwoods continues to be led by Vilas County, with $246.9 million in total business sales in 2012, up 9.94 percent; and Oneida, $246.2 million, up 5.62 percent.
Berry said that, on a local level, the Economic Development Corporation has created and implemented a countywide, activity wide strategy.
“Not only have we invested in Search Engine Optimization for the County site: countyoftrails.com, but we have been very successful with the Langlade County tourism app for iPhone and Android products,” Berry said. “Between the Website and the App, the EDC has been able to provide a very useful resource for the visiting public as well as the folks that live here. Not only can you find all the latest conditions for your favorite trail, or where to purchase licenses, or the current levels of the Wolf River, there is information on dining, lodging, attractions and events.”
Berry said the county also has a business directory that is becoming a very useful resource.
“It’s a free service that we offer our total business community, and we encourage all businesses to take advantage,” Berry said. “After all, some visitors may get engaged while here and need a jeweler or may fall in love with the area and need to find a Realtor. The goal is to make it as convenient as possible for our visitors and residents to find the info they need.”