Tourism in Wisconsin breaks $20B in 2015

Tourism in Wisconsin continues to improve, bringing more than $19 billion into the state last year.

Friday Gov. Scott Walker and the state’s Department of Tourism secretary, Stephanie Klett, made stops at tourist destinations around the state to highlight the tourism industry in the state and kick off National Travel and Tourism Week.

Since Walker took office in 2011, he said the tourism industry in Wisconsin has grown by $4.5 billion. From 2014 to 2015, the boost was $1 billion.

Walker said tourism is an asset to the state and he plans to keep it that way.

In a stop at the head of the Sparta/Elroy Bike Trail in Kendall, Wisconsin, Walker said more than 105 million people visited Wisconsin last year, spending nearly $20 billion.

“We’re pleased, it’s a key part to our state’s economy, we’ve made investments in each of the last three budgets to try and grow our marketing, it’s paid off not only in big market like the Twin Cities and Chicago, but elsewhere to drive people here and across the state of Wisconsin,” Walker said.

Walker said he continues to put more funding into tourism marketing year after year because it continues to have a good return on investment.

Klett said the tourism industry in Wisconsin employs just shy of 200,000 people in the state as well.

“A lot of times people think that tourism is just about seasonal jobs, these are family sustaining jobs,” Klett said.

Klett also said that for every dollar her department spends on tourism, $8 was returned in taxes to local and state government.

“There are people from around the world that want to vacation in Wisconsin,” she said.

La Crosse County is also seeing an increase in tourism. More than $236 million was spent by visitors to the county last year.

“Two-thousand-fifteen was a banner year for La Crosse,” Phillip Wanke, La Crosse County Convention and Visitors Bureau director of group sales, said.

La Crosse County has moved up and is now one of the top 10 destinations in the entire state, and it doesn’t plan on looking any time soon.

“No. 9 in the state puts us right behind the major markets Milwaukee, Madison, the Dells, and Green Bay, and we’re knocking on Door County now. They’re the next one to take down,” Wanke said.

La Crosse County moved up three spots to get into the top 10. The tourism department does not believe it has ever been ranked in the top 10. The visitors bureau said this has been a goal for a long time, and it is happy to finally broke into the single digits.