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Wisconsin tourism numbers up, supports 185,000 jobs
Wisconsin’s tourism economy has rebounded to above the levels before the Great Recession. Mike Simonson reports.
Since the stay-cation years of 2009 and 2010 when people couldn’t afford to travel, the tourism business is up 18%, including what Tourism Secretary Stephanie Klett calls a healthy 4% rise last year.
She says the biggest attraction in Wisconsin is Wisconsin.
“With Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, 15,000 lakes, rivers and streams, the world’s largest and longest inland chain of lakes, one of the world’s most crookedess rivers, the Kickapoo, the list goes on and on for what we offer.”
Another reason for the bump is advertising using celebrities like Kareem Abul-Jabbar and the crew from the corny comedy “Airplane!”, complete with old jokes.
“Roger.” (KAJ) “What?” (pilot) “Boating, fishing, hiking.” (KAJ) “Huh?” (pilot) “I wish I was down there”. “Roger”. (KAJ) “My name is Kareem.” (pilot) “Surely you can’t be serious.” (KAJ) “I am serious and don’t call me Shirley.”
Klett says the ads have gotten free publicity with coverage in Time Magazine and the Huffington Post. But she says ultimately, the draw is Wisconsin’s natural resources, like the 130,000 people who visited the Apostle Islands ice caves this winter.
“But here’s what I love: Those visitors had an experience. They had to walk a mile and it’s winding and it’s cold but then you see those spectacular ice formations. Literally people were in a long line. It was just this steady stream that looked like a pilgrimage.”
Klett says the state had 100 million visits last year which sustained 185,000 jobs. That’s one in every 13 jobs in Wisconsin linked to tourism.
Douglas County had the largest increase of any of the 72 counties in Wisconsin.
Superior/Douglas County Visitors Bureau Marketing Director Brittany Berrens says they had a heckuva year in 2013 with a 10% increase.
Douglas County tourism sustained more than 1200 jobs and generated almost 10 million dollars in tax revenues for local communities and the state.
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