Janesville72.6°

Tourism a key to our economic health

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Dan Plutchak
May 14, 2013

Although today marks the end of National Tourism Week, it’s really the beginning of perhaps the most important season in the Stateline area.

A study released a week ago by Tourism Economics shows that the impact of tourism on Wisconsin’s economy was $16.8 billion in 2012, up 5 percent from the previous year.

Walworth County ranked sixth in the state for tourism spending in 2012 at $455.1 million, an increase of 11 percent from a year earlier.

The economy here relies heavily on the influx of tourists each summer because total tourism-related sales were $604.8 million a year ago, an increase of more than 10 percent. The industry supports 6,566 tourism-related jobs in Walworth County and brings in $57.4 million in tax revenue.

In just a few weeks, the long Memorial Day weekend will kick off the tourism season as visitors from Wisconsin and Illinois will flock to the area’s lakes and recreation destinations.

In Illinois, the tourism industry generated nearly $31.8 billion in revenue in 2011, an increase of 8.4 percent, according to the most recent report from D.K. Shifflet and Associates for the U.S. Travel Association.

Visitors to Winnebago County spent $311 million in 2011, up 11.8 percent from a year earlier. The last time Winnebago County had topped $300 million was in 2007, the year before the great recession.

Outside the city of Chicago, visitor travel was up 9.4 percent, with leisure travel leading the way with an increase of 10.6 percent.

Along the Rock River valley, from Beloit through South Beloit, Roscoe and Rockton, the spring travel, recreation and tourism season already is bustling with activity.

This past Monday, Secretary of Tourism Stephanie Klett kicked off tourism week with a visit to the Beloit Travel Wisconsin Welcome Center.

“The past two years have seen outstanding growth for Wisconsin’s tourism industry,” Klett said in advance of her appearance. “The increased investment in tourism marketing, our effective ‘fun’ campaign and our industrywide collaborations have pumped $2 billion into the state’s economy since the beginning of 2011.”

Among the big draws coming up early next month are Old Settlers Days in Rockton and Beloit’s Got Art event presented by Friends of Riverfront. The event is highlighted June 5-15 by the seventh annual Edge of the Rock Plein Air painting.

The study, released by the Wisconsin Department of Tourism, highlights how the area’s tourism industry is on the rebound.

The study shows that visitors to Rock County created a direct economic impact of nearly $186 million. Rock County was No. 17, with $185.6 million in direct visitor spending, up 6 percent from a year earlier.

That spending supported 3,782 jobs, with a personal income of nearly $79 million in wages and salaries.

It also generated $24 million in taxes and other fees for state and local government, as well as $15 million in federal taxes.

“Janesville’s tourism industry is growing increasingly varied and stronger each day,” Christine Rebout, executive director of the Janesville Convention and Visitors Bureau, was quoted as saying in a news release. “Assisting with sports tournaments, luring meeting planners and creating memorable trips for group travelers are just a few of the things we do here at the Janesville Convention and Visitors Bureau to enhance tourism’s role in our community. The jobs and income created by visitors to our community help diversify and grow our local economy.”

Just two weeks ago, the Rock Soccer Club hosted its first tournament, which drew 32 teams and hundreds of spectators to the Janesville Youth Sports Complex.

The tournament received support from the Janesville Convention and Visitors Bureau, which received a $5,000 grant from the state Department of Tourism to help create and establish the event.

Among the events that will draw visitors in May are the farmers market downtown and the annual Renaissance Fair at Traxler Park.

The upcoming season will be a good indicator of how well the local economy will be doing down the road.



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