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Wisconsin Attracts Record $10.8 Billion in Visitor spend in 2013

May 02, 2014 4:00 pm

Skift Take

Visitor spend has been on a steady incline for the past three years with the majority coming from leisure travelers. Wisconsin has an opportunity to further boost its tourism industry by attracting and building an events and convention industry.

— Samantha Shankman

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Steven Vence  / Flickr

A man rides a tall bike through a park in Milwaukee. Steven Vence / Flickr


Wisconsin vacationers and other Badger State travelers spent over $10.8 billion in 2013, a 4.5% increase from the previous year, according to a study released Friday by the state Department of Tourism.

That comes after a similarly sized spending increase in 2012, and shows the continued strength of the state’s tourism industry, Gov. Scott Walker said in a statement. State spending on ads to promote Wisconsin as a vacation spot are an effective way to attract visitors, he said.

Travelers spent $10.84 billion last year, up from $10.376 billion in 2012, $9.899 billion in 2011, and $9.199 billion in 2010, according to the annual study conducted by Philadelphia-based Tourism Economics, a firm hired by the department.

“The past three years have been outstanding for Wisconsin’s tourism industry,” said Tourism Secretary Stephanie Klett in a statement.

Leisure travel last year accounted for 88% of visitor spending in Wisconsin. Overnight visitors — both leisure and business — account for 67% of the total spending.

Spending by all travelers directly supports over 131,000 state jobs, the study said.

Restaurants, and other food and beverage businesses, again accounted the largest number of those jobs — nearly 48,000.

The travel spending also supported more than 32,000 jobs in the lodging industry, nearly 24,000 jobs in recreation and entertainment, and more than 15,000 jobs in retail trade.

In 2013, visitors spent $2.8 billion on Wisconsin lodging services, and $2.7 billion in the food and beverage sector.

Another $2.3 billion was spent on retail, $1.4 billion on recreation, and $1.2 billion on transportation costs (other than air travel), according to the study’s estimates.

Milwaukee County again led the state in visitor spending, with $1.69 billion.

Rounding out the top 10 counties were Dane, $1.04 billion; Sauk, $888 million; Waukesha, $665 million; Brown, $558 million; Walworth, $478 million; Outagamie, $300 million; Door, $299 million; Marathon, $229 million; and Winnebago, $219 million.

(c)2014 the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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