There’s no denying tourism is a vital economic driver in the region and Wisconsin. According to 2018 statistics released last month, visitor spending increased 4.9 percent to $21.6 billion. Zeroing in on the 18-county region of the New North, all but two counties saw tourism spending increase in 2018.
Statewide, Brown County landed among the top five counties in the state, bringing in $697 million, an increase of 3.91 percent from 2017. Door County visitor spending increased 2.26 percent for a total of $366.6 million to take second place, followed by Outagamie County with $361.7 million. Visitors to Winnebago and Sheboygan counties brought in $252 million and $240 million, respectively.
Looking through the report, one statistic jumped out at me: Kewaunee County saw its tourism spending increase 17.65 percent to $23.5 million in 2018, making it the second-fastest-growing tourism hot spot in the state (Pepin County in western Wisconsin was No. 1). This also was the second consecutive year Kewaunee saw a double-digit increase, as spending jumped 13.4 percent from 2016 to 2017.
Jennifer Gonzalez, the county’s tourism coordinator, said there doesn’t appear to be a single reason why more visitors are coming to Kewaunee County. In announcing the county’s numbers, she cited a growing awareness of its festivals, wineries, charter fishing industry and other outdoor activities as reasons for the increase.
Recreation activities, including Kewaunee’s ski and snowboard hill, Winter Park and two new fat bike trails also have attracted more visitors, Gonzalez said. The county’s three chambers of commerce (Algoma, Kewaunee and Luxemburg) are working together more closely to promote the area, she added.
I’ll admit I did not know there were that many things to do in Kewaunee County. And that’s just one example of how we may not realize all that area communities have to offer, whether it’s recreational opportunities, cultural exhibits or events, or the chance to learn more about the region’s history by visiting one of the many museums or historical sites.
While spending time in Door County or on a lake is always a good summer pastime, try something new this summer and be a tourist in your own town. Visit the local museums, attend a community festival or visit a park or bike/walking trail that you haven’t tried before. You’ll not only learn a little bit more about where you live, you’ll also help the region’s economy.