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State tourism takes a hit from economy

Wisconsin's tourism industry saw a major sales decline last year, but industry officials say a recovering economy could help fuel higher travel spending in 2010.

Wisconsin's tourism industry saw a major sales decline last year, but industry officials say a recovering economy could help fuel higher travel spending in 2010.

Traveler expenditures statewide dropped 7.8% in 2009 from a year earlier, according to a new study released by the state Department of Tourism. In Milwaukee County, spending by travelers dropped 11.2%, according to the study, which was conducted for the department by Davidson-Peterson Associates, a consulting firm based in Kennebunk, Maine.

Nationwide, the U.S. Travel Association reported a 9% travel spending decline.

State Tourism Secretary Kelli Trumble said holding Wisconsin's decline to a single-digit percentage might indicate the continuing appeal of the state's vacation destinations. She also said 2010 is expected to be better than last year.

"National travel sources like the U.S. Travel Association are all pointing to a fuller recovery in 2011, with consumer confidence now in a different place than a year ago and still improving," Trumble said in a statement.

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Travelers in Wisconsin spent $12.09 billion, compared to $13.11 billion in 2008.

The drop was especially steep in the non-leisure segments, the study said.

Spending in the meetings and conventions segment dropped 14.3%, while business travel fell 9.9%. Leisure travel spending dropped 6.3%.

In March, the Department of Tourism and Department of Commerce unveiled a new campaign to persuade CEOs of Wisconsin-based companies to hold business meetings in the Badger State rather than traditional convention destinations.

According to Davidson-Peterson, combined traveler spending for shopping ($3.66 billion) and food ($3.24 billion) amounted to 57% of the total spending figure in 2009.

Recreation accounted for 22% of traveler spending ($2.7 billion), and lodging expenses represented 13% of spending ($1.52 billion). Transportation accounted for 8% ($970 million).

Milwaukee County ranked No. 1 among Wisconsin counties for travel spending, with $1.53 billion.

The next two counties with the most travel spending were Dane ($1.18 billion, down 4.6%) and Sauk ($1.01 billion, down 3.6%).

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Copyright (c) 2010, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

Related Topics: TOURISM
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