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What lies behind local tourism numbers

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Christine I. Rebout
June 5, 2011

Does tourism in Rock County truly create jobs and income for Janesville residents?


The Wisconsin Department of Tourism recently released 2010 figures for tourism spending. With an estimated economic impact of $217 million, Rock County ranked 12th.


For some residents, the high number is hard to believe, so Iíd like to dive into the math and give real and tangible meaning to the numbers.


Letís begin by looking at Janesville alone and examine hotel stays. Janesville has about 750 hotel rooms. If we assume theyíre half full and everyone is sleeping alone, thatís 375 people in Janesville each night who donít live here.


Smith Data Travel reports show that occupancy did average about 50 percent for our region in 2010. If the room averages $75, at 50 percent occupancy 365 days a year, thatís more than $10 million just for those who do nothing but sleep here. Then consider that those visitors need to eat, shop, entertain themselves and buy gasoline. If that spending totals just $100 per person, those 136,875 visitors spend almost $13.7 million more.


Next, letís talk about restaurants as tourism spending. We have about 100 restaurants in Janesville. If they average just 25 seats each and those seats turn over just four times each day, thatís 10,000 meals served. You can bet that not everyone eating those meals lives here.


Janesville has four numbered Interstate 90/39 exits, each with extensive signage for the restaurants at that exit. The traffic counts for I-90/39 tell us that on a Saturday in July, 60,000 cars pass through. If 5 percent of those people are hungry enough to stop when they drive by and they average two people per car, thatís 6,000 meals served in that one day.


Why would anyone choose to come to Janesville? My answer is they come for business and pleasure.


Janesville hosts hundreds of meetings each year at our meeting/conference facilities. Just a few of the ones we worked with in 2010 included the Chicago & NorthWestern Historical Society and the 235th Field Artillery Observation Battalion Reunion. Our community also hosts dozens of bus tours to our attractions such as Rotary Botanical Gardens and MacFarlane Pheasant Farm. Each of those buses brings 40 to 50 people here.


Sporting and special events are also tremendous economic drivers. Southern Wisconsin AirFEST brings upwards of 20,000 people each year, and we know by onsite surveys that 50 percent of those attendees are from outside of Rock County. The National Water-Ski Tournament, the Squirt Hockey Tournament and the USWCA 29th Annual Sr. Women's Bonspiel also brought thousands of visitors to our community in 2010, each of them spending money in local businesses.


If you still struggle to understand the real economic impact of tourism, just ask your relatives, friends and neighbors. Chances are that many of them own or work for a hotel, restaurant, retail, service or entertainment business that benefits from the thousands of people who choose to visit our community and spend money while they are here.


Christine I. Rebout is executive director of the Janesville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, 20 S. Main St., Suite No. 17, Janesville, WI 53545; phone 1-800-48-PARKS; website www.janesvillecvb.com.

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