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As we approach the new year, I have a lot to be thankful for this holiday season.

As you likely know, it is the mission of the Department of Tourism to inspire travelers to experience Wisconsin. We work closely with destination marketing organizations, industry associations, and attractions throughout the state to deliver a strong tourism economy. And with so many unique destinations and experiences that make Wisconsin special, it’s not surprising that there are positive indicators that Wisconsin tourism is on the rise.

The economic benefits of travel are profound. Tourism is a $21.6 billion driver of our state economy and supports 199,073 jobs in Wisconsin. With the increase in entertainment and recreation taxable sales doubling the previous three years’ average growth, there’s cause for great optimism. While Wisconsin visitors generate $1.6 billion in state and local tax revenue, the Racine County news is also positive with visitor spending at $250 million.

Our internal tracking metrics indicate the Travel Wisconsin summer 2019 marketing campaign moved people around the state and attracted new visitors as well. Through digital creative optimization, we expanded our display ads from 30 variations in 2018 to 1,945 in 2019. The results show an increase in overall display ad performance of 68%. Social media campaign performance is up 93% year-over-year, and ad-exposed tracking metrics indicate a 22% increase of people traveling to destinations more than 90 miles from their homes after clicking on our optimized ads.

Summer was not our only great season. For those worried an early winter stunted fall tourism, Google Analytics of the 2019 Fall Color Report shows tremendous interest in Wisconsin’s fall colors. The Fall Color Report’s record-breaking 964,497 pageviews represent an 88.78% increase. In fact, recently reached an all-time high of 10 million web sessions in 2019.

The 9th annual statewide Big Bundle Up campaign just wrapped up and special thanks to the Real Racine Visitors Center and the Burlington Chamber of Commerce for being among the 60 industry partners who participated, collecting hats, mittens, scarves, coats and snow pants. These winter necessities will be delivered to local charities to help keep Wisconsinites warm.

Finally, our Joint Effort Marketing (JEM) program, which helps non-profits promote local events, also saw success. This year, the Department funded 62 projects awarding a total of over $1.1 million. We were pleased to award a JEM grant for the Racine Zoo Lantern Festival, which features a spectacular nighttime event of illumination through the end of the year.

These important achievements and milestones are possible thanks to the support of Governor Tony Evers, Senators Van Wanggaard, Bob Wirch, and David Craig, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, Representatives Robert Wittke, Greta Neubauer, Tip McGuire, and Chuck Wichgers, and Racine County Convention and Visitors Bureau President and CEO Dave Blank.

I also want to take a moment to thank you for being a big part of what makes Wisconsin tourism so successful. As you travel this holiday season, I encourage you to visit to explore something new and support the many wonderful destinations and attractions that make this such a great state in which to play, live and work.

Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday and a happy new year.

Sara Meaney

Secretary-designee, Wisconsin Department of Tourism