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Visitor spending in Wisconsin last year produced fun, memories and big business for the tourism industry. A study released Friday (May 5) by the Wisconsin Department of Tourism shows that the impact of tourism on the state’s economy reached $20 billion in 2016, increase of 3.5 percent from the previous year.

Racine County stayed in the top 15 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties in terms of visitor spending with $229.2 million last year. An estimated 4,012 local jobs generating $110.4 million in personal income were supported by tourism. Those jobs generated $26.7 million in state and local taxes.

Racine County ranked 13th in visitor spending in 2016, placing between Marathon County ($234.6 million) and Eau Claire County ($228.4 million). Milwaukee County, at $1.9 billion, led Wisconsin in visitor spending.

The local visitor spending total dipped by 1.32 percent, compared with 2015’s record spending. Real Racine, the county’s destination marketing organization, attributes the decline to a pair of major hotel remodeling projects that reduced the number of available rooms last year. The 121-room DoubleTree by Hilton Racine Harbourwalk in Downtown Racine reopened last fall. The 222-room Racine Architect Hotel will complete its rebranding as the Delta by Marriott in Mount Pleasant later the year.

In total, an estimated $29.2 million has been invested in Racine County hotel remodeling and new construction. A new, 93-room Holiday Inn Express & Suites, under construction near I-94 and Highway 20 in Mount Pleasant, will open this summer. The present Holiday Inn Express in Mount Pleasant is being remodeled into a Country Inn & Suites for a June rebranding.

Statewide, visitor spending generated $1.5 billion in state and local revenue and $1.1 billion in federal taxes.

“Traveler spending has grown an average of 4.5 percent per year since 2011,” said Department of Tourism Secretary Stephanie Klett. “It’s a tremendous credit to the tourism industry in all 72 counties and the work they do to create fun vacation experiences, market their destinations and provide great customer service that makes travelers want to return to Wisconsin each year.”

The Department of Tourism worked with national research firm Tourism Economics and Longwoods International to produce the reports.

Paul Holley is retired from careers in journalism, public relations and marketing but not from life. These days, he pretty much writes about what he feels like writing. You may contact him directly at:...