Tourism leaders hope additional marketing will help bring more than 17,000 visitors and millions of dollars to the Marshfield, Wisconsin Rapids and Stevens Point areas, making up for a drop in guests and their money during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Visit Marshfield, the Wisconsin Rapids Area Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Stevens Point Area Convention & Visitors Bureau are part of the Central Wisconsin Tourism Association, which received $39,550 from the state to support marketing efforts during the pandemic.
COVID-19 is slowing the tourism industry after it saw its biggest year in more than 10 years in 2019. Wisconsin recorded more than 113.2 million visits last year, generating about $22.2 billion in economic activity and tax revenues, according to the state Department of Tourism.
Visitors to Wood and Portage counties spent $237.7 million in 2019, supporting more than 4,600 jobs and spending about $440.1 million at businesses in the area, according to the department.
According to studies commissioned by the U.S. Travel Association, Wisconsin’s tourism industry lost $1.7 billion between March and May because of the pandemic.
The state Department of Tourism grant will help the three central Wisconsin organizations recover from travel and event cancellations caused by the pandemic by creating a regional leisure marketing campaign.
The idea is that bringing attention to the area will attract visitors and increase overnight stays, while visitors enjoy outdoor activities and spend money at local food and beverage businesses.
The marketing campaign aims to bring in almost 17,500 visitors to spend the night in the area, and organizers expect those tourists to spend $2.5 million in the region. Grant money will be spent on print, billboard and digital advertising.
Almost 500 businesses and organizations are represented in Wood, Portage and Adams counties through the Central Wisconsin Tourism Association, promoting outdoor recreation such as golfing, fishing, kayaking, hiking and biking, as well as local restaurants, craft beer and distillery businesses and cranberry tours.
“We have a long history of working together to bring travelers to our region, and we are well-positioned to succeed based on our longevity as a travel partnership organization and the breadth of assets we offer while travelers look to explore safely and properly distance,” said Matt McLean, executive director of Visit Marshfield.
The state Department of Tourism has granted over $1.15 million this year to fund 52 such regional marketing projects. The program aims to attract $206 million from visitors from the marketing campaigns across Wisconsin.
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