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Aurora

Winter tourism spending jumps 6.5 percent



Seeberg
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Seeberg
October 02, 2012 | 04:24 PM
ELKHORN — During what is typically the slow winter season, tourism spending in Walworth County spiked at 6.5 percent in the first quarter of 2012, according to a report from the firm Tourism Economics, of Wayne, Pa.

Overall, in 2011, tourism spending grew by 14.1 percent and visitor spending reached $411 million.

The Walworth County Visitors Bureau contracted Tourism Economics to research the tourism dollars spent in Walworth County during the winter months.

Kathleen Seeberg, executive director of the Walworth County Visitors Bureau, credited the increase to several factors

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As part of its winter push, the Walworth County Visitors Bureau published a coupon book, which offered discounts to area attractions, retail, theater, lodging and dining.

"We had a mild winter and I'm sure that people got out more than usual for the outdoor aspects of that season," she said. "The coupon book is something we did with our campaign to bring visitors to our area during the slow season quarter, which is the first quarter of the year."

The coupon books were distributed at festivals and events. The books also were part of a direct mailing campaign, in which visitors could request a coupon book which would be sent to them.

"The coupon book was very well-received," she said. "We went through 6,000 coupon books."

About 1,200 books were handed out during Lake Geneva's Winterfest.

"It is a way to drive people to do some shopping they maybe normally wouldn't do or spend the night when it may have just been a day trip," Seeberg said.

The 6.5 percent spending increase brought the tourism dollars in the county to $73.9 million in the first quarter of 2012.

"We actually received a grant in order to do the winter campaign," Seeberg said. "I just found out yesterday that we were approved for the third year of the grant and doing the winter campaign again for 2013 in that, of course, we would expect an increase over 2012."

Repeating a 6.5 percent increase would be a lofty goal, Seeberg said.

However, she would be pleased as long as the numbers keep going up.

"I would be happy with any increase," she said. "If it was a 2 percent increase that would mean 8.5 percent increase over two years, which is still fabulous.

Factored in the increase is a slowly-improving economy.

"For a while they were still coming, but they were really careful about what they spent," she said. "Holding back that discretionary income isn't happening as much. That spending is starting to loosen up as the economy is getting a little bit better."

According to the report, the largest portion of tourism spending, $113 million, is for lodging. Food and beverages account for $98 million and shopping and retail contributed to $86 million.

Seeberg said the report reviewed Walworth County as a whole, and didn't look at the individual communities.

"We did not drill down to community specific, I know that Lake Geneva did well, but for that big of an increase I would have to say that it was countywide," Seeberg said.

Where the numbers came from

To measure the growth of tourism dollars spent, Tourism Economics analyzed seasonal employment trends, room tax receipts and other indicators for tourism dollars.

Seeberg said the Tourism Economics firm uses more conservative estimates than other firms.

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