Tourism up, but district counties have a few empty seats

Wisconsin State Roundup

Published July 1, 2001  | July 2001 issue

Despite the fears of many over higher gas prices last year, the state saw a 10 percent increase in tourism spending in 2000, nearly cracking $10 billion. Since 1997, tourism spending in the state has jumped more than $3 billion, or almost 12 percent annually, according to the state Department of Tourism.

Revised state figures, however, show that tourism spending was not as strong in most Ninth District counties (which comprise the northwestern third of the state). Only 6 of 26 district counties managed to match the state average for tourism spending growth; three counties saw tourism spending decline, and three other counties were only a couple busloads of tourists away from a similar fate.

La Crosse County saw a tourism spending decline of $8 million last year, or 4 percent off 1999 levels. Officials there blamed the drop on the loss of the New Orleans Saints football training camp, increased competition from water parks in the Wisconsin Dells and closure of a resort attraction on the Mississippi for most of the year.

Ronald A. Wirtz