WASHBURN COUNTY -- As the Wisconsin Department of Tourism gears up to release the state tourism economic impact numbers from 2018, counties across the state are reviewing their individual numbers to learn what worked (and didn’t) during the 2018 season.
In Washburn County, tourism growth reached a plateau after eight straight years of growth, with a 30% increase over the previous six years. Direct Visitor Spending came in at $30.5 million, down from $30.6 in 2017 (a - .34% change) and the Total Business Sales saw an increase of 1.25%, hitting $46.2 million. While the Washburn County Tourism Association (WCTA) team members had been expecting the slowed growth due to some major business changes, the team is still kicking around ideas on how to help the area re-gain the momentum from the past 8+ years.
Commenting on the plateau in tourism growth, Michelle Martin, Executive Director of WCTA said, “We were definitely expecting a plateau this year. We are seeing a trend of tourism-related businesses being sold and not being operated in their previous capacity. We lost a medium-sized resort and a very popular restaurant in 2018. In addition, we had one of our major tourism businesses experience some unsteadiness due to a potential sale. Luckily for tourism, that sale didn’t go through, allowing the business to continue on as a major player in our tourism economy. Hard work from their team members helped to make up much of the lost business. Our team is planning on some strategies to work with our businesses, realtors, and county development organization to better educate everyone on the importance of tourism businesses being sold maintaining their tourism focus. We are hopeful that this will help those business owners who are working on the transition into retirement to be able to see their business continue on as a thriving tourism business.”
At the WCTA Annual Meeting, there will likely be some lively discussion on how the organization can better leverage our area residents and businesses to help maintain and grow the amount of tourism businesses in the area. For years, we’ve seen a downturn in how many resorts in operation, but an uptick in the amount of private vacation rentals. The bottom line is that as WCTA is working hard as an organization to invite visitors, we need quality places for visitors to our area to stay. An average overnight visitor brings an economic impact of $180/day, whereas a day-tripper brings in $58/day. It is clearly to Washburn County’s advantage to be sure that we have plentiful lodging for visitors, especially during peak season.
The WCTA team is looking forward to re-gaining much of that growth as they’ve been streamlining and improving their marketing tactics from a county-wide standpoint. WCTA is grateful for all of the hardworking business owners who make tourism in Washburn County successful. To find out more about WCTA, contact Michelle Martin at (715) 635-9696 or stop by the Washburn County Visitor Center at 122 N. River Street in Spooner.