Tourism on rise in Douglas CountyThe business of being friendly and welcoming is paying off for Douglas County.
By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
The business of being friendly and welcoming is paying off for Douglas County.
The industry that supports 1,201 jobs in Douglas County — that’s 1 in every 13 jobs — and contributes $24.3 million in personal income to the local economy is on the rise, according to a new study of Wisconsin’s tourism industry.
And the growth in tourism was more pronounced in Douglas County in 2012.
“We were a little bit better than what the state average was,” said Dave Minor, president and chief executive officer of the Chamber or Superior-Douglas County and its Convention and Visitor Bureau.
The study by Tourism Economics showed the impact on tourism statewide was $16.6 billion, a 5 percent increase over the previous year. But travelers in Douglas County spent $74.4 million here last year, up about 6.5 percent from 2011.
“We’re very proud of our tourism industry, particularly here in northern Wisconsin,” Minor said. “We’ve had a long history of partnerships with the city and the county to really develop the tourism history here in Superior and Douglas County.”
Money that comes into the community from tourism benefits a lot of small businesses and creates jobs, said Douglas County Board Chairman Doug Finn.
“One of the obligations we all have, including all the citizens of Superior and Douglas County, when we do have tourists here, we do need to welcome them and be friendly to them, and I think we are,” Finn said. “We want them to feel at home and make them want to come back.”
Finn said he’s hopeful the communities of Douglas County can build on the successes in tourism in recent years.
Mayor Bruce Hagen, who lives on East Second Street, fully understands that everyone has a role to play in drawing visitors to the community.
Hagen recounted standing in his yard last week when some people from out of town stopped to get directions to a local steakhouse — directions he provided to the couple. The following day, again in his yard, he gave directions to a couple of fishermen looking for another restaurant in town.
“I could stand out there all day,” Hagen said.
While late-falling snow is launching a later season this year, Hagen is still confident that things are getting better.
Minor said one of the biggest compliments he’s heard of the area was how people felt welcomed to the community. To capitalize on that momentum, the Chamber has held seminars that drew 280 people to two sessions on good customer service recently.
“If there was no tourism in the state of Wisconsin, every person would have to look at paying $575 in taxes per year to make up the loss of that revenue,” Minor said. “A little over $9.1 million in state and local taxes was generated right here in Douglas County.”
Statewide, traveler spending generated $1.3 billion in state and local taxes.
“The past two years have been outstanding for Wisconsin’s tourism industry and the two-year, $2 billion growth that is reported in the research confirms what we hear from businesses and destinations as I travel the state,” Wisconsin Tourism Secretary Stephanie Klett said in a prepared statement. “Investing in tourism promotion and marketing at both the state and local level is an effective way to attract visitors, enhance the state’s image and keep the economy growing.”