Wisconsin’s Tourism Economy Continues to Hum

Direct tourism spending in 2018 increased 4.86% to $13.3 billion with an overall economic impact of $21.5 billion, an increase of 4.68%, according to a report released Monday by the state Department of Tourism.

The state’s tourism industry accounted for 199,073 jobs, an increase of 1.67%, that paid out $5.5 billion in wages, an increase of 2.43%, while tourism also contributed $1.5 billion in state and local taxes, an increase of 2.6 percent over 2017.

But for data-driven Sara Meaney, the state’s Tourism Secretary designee, one of the growth categories she is trumpeting this week as she tours the state to tout the tourism numbers is the 4.9% increase in spending per visitor to $118. The number of visitors in 2018 grew by 2 million people over 2017 to 112.1 million.

Statewide, lodging and food and beverage purchases accounted for about $7 billion or about 53% of tourism spending. Shopping contributed $2.6 billion, and $1.8 billion was spent on transportation. Recreational spending on activities like boating, fishing, biking and camping experienced the largest growth by sector with an increase of 8% to $1.9 billion.