Earlier this week, the Wisconsin Department of Tourism reported a major decline in tourism spending in the state last year.
Travelers spent "only" $12.09 billion in Wisconsin last year, compared to $13.11 billion in 2008. That's a 7.8% drop. Nationwide, the U.S. Travel Association reported a 9% spending decline.
Yeah, but what about here, in Racine County? Well, today we have the answer, from Dave Blank, president of RealRacine, the former Racine County Convention and Visitors Bureau. Blank reports that tourists spent $218 million here in 2009, an 11.3% decline from the previous year.
Even with the decline, Blank says Racine County "held on to 13th place for tourism revenue" among the state's 72 counties. And the bulk of the drop in visitor spending is business travel, "Racine's bread and butter from October through April."
"Certainly, the economic downturn took a toll on Wisconsin's tourism industry," Blank said in the organization's e-tourism newsletter. "People had less discretionary money to spend on their vacations. It also didn't help that the state cut the tourism promotion budget significantly, inviting fewer people to enjoy our attractions, restaurants, lodging facilities and destinations."
Still, optimism abounds: "The economy appears to be gradually recovering and people are starting to travel again. Wisconsin tourism could fare well in this recovery if it capitalizes on such travel trends as closer-to-home vacations and more value-conscious consumers."
Real Racine also announced today receipt of a $39,550 marketing grant from the Wisconsin Department of Tourism to promote Racine County. This grant is expected to generate $2.75 million in tourism spending.
The money will be used to promote the new RealRacine brand in Chicago. "The grant will allow us to start the implementation phase of the "RealRacine" brand to the external market," said Blank.
RealRacine's next big event here is the Spike and Splash Festival at North Beach, a weekend combining EVP Pro Beach Volleyball and the U.S. Grand Prix of Watercross. The two events take place on Saturday, June 19, and Sunday, June 20. There is free admission to both.