Walworth County ranks sixth in state for visitor spending, study shows

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Andrea Anderson
Monday, December 30, 2013

DELAVAN — Visitor spending in Walworth County has grown more than twice as fast as the state of Wisconsin's since 2011.

Walworth County's visitor spending is up more than 11 percent from 2011, while Wisconsin's grew about 5 percent in the same time frame, according to a study by Tourism Economics, a Philadelphia-based tourism and analytics company.

The company also found that in the first quarter of 2013, Walworth County visitors spent about $85 million, up 10 percent compared to the same quarter in 2012.

The Walworth County Visitors Bureau hired Tourism Economics three years ago to look at the effect tourism has on the county.

It is no secret tourism is critical for Walworth County, said Kathleen Seeberg, executive director of the visitors bureau.

“It's always a top contributor to our economy,” Seeberg said. “It's always been a natural place for people from larger cities to come and enjoy their time in Wisconsin.”

The county is ranked sixth out of the state's 72 counties for the amount visitors spend during a single year, according to the study.

In 2011, visitors spent about $410 million, and about $455 million in 2012. Milwaukee County is ranked first with visitors spending more than $1,500 million in both 2011 and 2012. Its percent of change is lower than the state's, which was 4.8 percent.

In 2012, the U.S. visitor spending market was worth more than $10 billion, according to the study.

Visitor spending in Walworth County has grown at an average of 12 percent annually since 2010. Last year, spending generated more than $600 million in business sales and helped sustain more than 6,500 jobs.

The biggest moneymaker in visitor spending is lodging, accounting for 37 percent. In 2012, that grew more than 12 percent and brought in $167 million to the county, according to the study.

The growth in visitor spending is being credited to a Wisconsin Department of Tourism grant the county received in fall 2012. That grant funded promotion techniques aimed at attracting people from the Chicago area during the winter months.

The goal for the county is to steadily increase its tourist economy and encourage travelers to visit year round rather than in summer, Seeberg said.

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