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Schaefer
May 06, 2014 | 10:33 AM
No Packers. No Brewers. No Bucky Badger. No metropolitan area.

All those factors help draw tourists to Milwaukee, Madison and Brown County, home of the Packers.

Despite the fact that Walworth County is devoid of those attractions, one out of six people make a living from tourism in the county. That compares with one out of 13 statewide.

All together the county ranks sixth in the state in tourism spending, according to the annual report from the Wisconsin Department of Tourism, which was released last week.

“We weren’t surprised,” said Kathy Seeberg, executive director of the Walworth County Visitors Bureau. “Our area is a perfect destination point between Milwaukee, Madison and Chicago. Close to home, but far enough away so that you feel like you’re on vacation.”

Statewide, tourism supports nearly 185,000 jobs and $4.6 billion in personal income, the study said.

Darien Schaefer, president and CEO at Lake Geneva Chamber of Commerce and Convention and Visitors Bureau, said that there is a ripple effect of jobs and income in other businesses beyond those directly tied to tourism.

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Schaefer expects continued growth in the Lake Geneva area. He said he’s especially interested in expanding the local tourism season beyond summer.

For the state as a whole, tourism delivered a $17.5 billion impact to the economy last year, a gain of 4.3 percent compared to 4.9 percent for Walworth County.

While the difference may appear slight, that actually means Walworth County’s growth was 23 percent above the state average.

Milwaukee County ranks highest in the state for spending. Next is Dane, Sauk, Waukesha and Brown counties.

Wisconsin Dells is in Sauk County. All the others find their tourism bolstered by major sports teams or by being a major metro area. Walworth County has ranked sixth for several years.

Governor Scott Walker and Tourism Secretary Stephanie Klett presented the numbers at Miller Park Friday during National Travel and Tourism Week.

The total three-year growth of tourism activity is more than $2.7 billion, up from $14.8 billion in 2010, an 18 percent increase for this period, according to Tourism Economics, the research firm commissioned by the Department of Tourism. Walworth County’s tourism revenue went from $360 million in 2010 to $477 million last year.

Visitor growth in 2013 was the fastest since 2010, with Wisconsin receiving 100 million visits last year.

Other industry indicators included a strong upswing in day travelers, which helped push recreation and entertainment spending up 6.3 percent and food and beverage up by 6.2 percent, according to the report.

Visitors generated $1.35 billion in state and local revenue and $1 billion in federal taxes in 2013, saving Wisconsin taxpayers nearly $590 per household.

According to Longwoods International, for every $1 the Department spent on its 2013 summer and fall advertising campaigns, $6 was returned to state and local governments in incremental tax revenue.

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