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Tourism spending tops $44 million
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Visitor spending in Langlade County increased by 2.19 percent between 2012 and 2013, continuing a trend that has seen the area slowly being discovered as a tourist designation.

According to the annual report from the state Department of Tourism, visitors to the state’s “County of Trails” spent $44.28 million in 2013.

Those visitors also supported 510 jobs with a total personal income of $10.70 million, a 3.34 percent increase from 2012.

“We’re home to many of the state’s best-kept secrets,” Chris Berry, director of the Langlade County Economic Development Corporation, said. “We have over 85 miles of ATV trails; many miles of great biking trails from recreational to extreme adventure; along with over 800 lakes, 225 streams and ponds, and 28 miles of the Wolf River which is sough after by many anglers, as well as whitewater rafters and paddlers. And, the County also can boast approximately 130,000 of County Forest.”

And visitors to Langlade County generated $4.48 million in state and local taxes during 2013, up 2.46 percent.

“Tourism plays a vital role in Langlade County for not only the businesses that cater to tourism such as resorts, motels, campgrounds, bed and breakfasts and retail stores but it’s also a catalyst in promoting business development, workforce development and relocation as well as second home construction which all add to our economy’s tax base,” Berry said.

The regional leader in tourism spending continues to be Vilas County, at $203.14 million, up 3.95 percent; followed by Oneida, $196.96 million, up 5.97 percent.

Oconto reported $77.38 million in visitor spending, an increase of 7.62 percent; and Lincoln, $50.72 million, up 4.01 percent.

Forest saw a 2.76 percent increase in visitor spending, to $11.77 million and Florence, 1.64 percent, to $4.53 million.

The report, prepared by Tourism Economics, an Oxford Economics company, on behalf of the Wisconsin Department of Tourism, showed positive gains in all but eight of the state’s 72 counties. Major tourist destinations such as Door County and counties home to Eagle River, Hayward and Lake Geneva all gained in 2013.

Milwaukee County, home to the Brewers, Bucks, Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and two major universities, continued to lead the state in tourism. Direct spending there was up 3.4 percent to $1.7 billion while overall spending increased 3.9 percent to just over $3 billion, the study said.

State tourism has seen positive growth in each of the last four years, after a 7.8 percent decline in 2009 in the midst of a down economy. Tourism supported one in 13 jobs in Wisconsin in 2013 and generated $1.4 billion in state and local tax revenue and $1 billion in federal tax revenue, according to the report.

“The travel and hospitality industry continues to be an important and strong performing sector for Wisconsin’s economy,” Gov. Scott Walker said in prepared remarks. “Investing in tourism promotion and marketing at the national, state, and local level is an effective way to attract visitors and keep the economy growing.”

The state counted 100 million visits in 2013, an increase of 3.5 percent, according to the study. The state also saw an increase in day travelers that pushed recreation and entertainment spending up 6.3 percent and food and beverage up 6.2 percent. Money spent by visitors from other countries like Canada, the United Kingdom and Japan also continued to grow in 2013 to $700 million, up $100 million when compared to 2012.

“Those are some powerful numbers,” said state tourism secretary Stephanie Klett. “Our summer was probably the best summer in recorded history.”

Counties that experienced declines in direct visitor spending were Grant, down 2.7 percent, Green Lake (1.6 percent), Iowa (.03 percent), Iron (3.6 percent), Lafayette (1.7 percent), Pierce (6.7 percent), Price (5.8 percent) and Trempealeau (1.6 percent).

Douglas County, in far northern Wisconsin, had the largest percentage gain with direct spending up 10.2 percent to $82 million, followed by a 9.9 percent increase to $27.8 million in Calumet County.

Summer visitors accounted for 43.5 percent of the spending in 2013, but spring is taking market share from the warm weather season. Summer spending increased 1.7 percent but lost 1 percent market share when compared to 2012. Spring spending was up 12.6 percent to $222 million and accounted for 23.1 percent of the year’s spending. A late winter, a longer spring break period and the continued popularity of indoor water parks all played a role, said Romy Snyder, executive director of the visitor and convention bureau.

“A quarter of our annual economic impact is now in the spring,” Snyder said. “I bet it wasn’t 10 percent 20 years ago.”

Lodging — including sales of vacation homes as well as hotel and other overnight stays — remained the state's biggest tourism driver, accounting for about 26 percent of all spending. Food and beverage and retail sales rounded out the bulk of tourism spending, the report shows.

The state has seen the industry's growth taper off since 2010, which tourism department communications director Lisa Marshall said reflects a national trend since the recession.
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With over 800 lakes, Langlade County is a haven for anglers of all ages.
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