Douglas County tourism ready for rebound

Pandemic's impact on visitors was less severe than expected.

File: Amnicon Falls State Park.jpg
A tourist takes a photo from the covered Horton Bridge at Amnicon Falls State Park on Feb. 16, above the frozen waters of the Amnicon River. (Jed Carlson / 2021 file / Telegram)

When the coronavirus started shutting things down a year ago, officials with Travel Superior braced for the worst.

Every staff member, including the head of the Chamber of Commerce of Superior-Douglas and Travel Superior, was furloughed at one point in time in 2020.

“We were planning for a 50% to 70% reduction in tourism for the year and it ended up … it was down 23.2%,” said Taylor Pedersen, president and CEO of Travel Superior, the direct-marketing organization that promotes tourism in Douglas County.

Pedersen credits the people who live here, outdoor opportunities and drivability for the trends that suggest 2021 will be a better year for tourism in Douglas County.

“We saw tourism come back a lot faster than many areas, and we were pleasantly surprised by that,” Pedersen said. “I’m really glad that it’s still trending that way.”


The rollout of vaccinations across the state and around the world gives local officials hope that tourism will rebound.

“We’re positioned really well for going to a beach waterfront as well as taking a road trip,” Pedersen said. “We’re positioned to bounce back much better than most. We’re drivable for the Midwest. We’re drivable for Canada. Driving is seen as a safe way to travel right now … we’re positioned really, really well going into 2021.”

Travel Superior was awarded a $150,349 Travel Stimulus Grant to help get this year’s message out: "Remember Fun?" Local officials are hopeful people will refresh their memory in Superior and Douglas County.

Historically, Travel Superior has targeted Chicago, the Twin Cities and Thunder Bay out of state, and Beloit, Milwaukee, Madison, Appleton, Green Bay, Door County and Eau Claire in Wisconsin for its marketing efforts.

Pedersen said those efforts include advertising, public relations, social media and the web, and primarily focus on areas that are a two- to three-hour drive from Douglas County.

“That’s far enough away from home for people, but not too far,” Pedersen said.

“Tourism generates real dollars in our community,” Pedersen said.

In 2019, tourism in Douglas County generated an estimated $106.4 million in direct visitor spending, $154.3 million in total business sales, $11.8 million in state and local taxes, $31.3 million in labor income and 1,376 direct tourism jobs, according to a study by Longwoods International. Estimates for 2020 are not yet available because the annual study is typically conducted in May.


“Tourism does increase the quality of life,” Pedersen said. “A lot of our tourism assets are enjoyed by our citizens as well. Tourism is everything from sports events and festivals to our restaurants and our breweries. It contributes to jobs. It contributes to sales tax.”

Everybody, not just Travel Superior, contributes to the tourist experience and he encouraged locals to get out and see the community through a tourist’s lens to enjoy the amenities in the area, Pedersen said.

“We are bruised but not broken … hospitality, food and beverage, tourism got beat up in 2020,” Pedersen said. “We’re cautiously hopeful for 2021.”

What To Read Next
Get Local