Destinations Wisconsin is advocating for a $13.3 million increase in ongoing marketing funds to the Wisconsin Department of Tourism’s 2023-2025 state budget. We also support the one-time tourism funding proposed by Governor Evers for a tourism infrastructure grant program and an opportunity attraction and promotion fund. The additional marketing funds will support:
- General tourism marketing
- Meetings and convention (M&C) and sports events marketing and staff
- An opportunity fund to attract and promote large-scale, one-of-a-kind events.
Effective tourism promotional spending results in more visitor spending, more jobs, and more state and local tax revenue. It also enhances efforts to attract talent and businesses to the state by giving visitors and potential visitors a positive brand image of the state. In 2021, The Wisconsin Department of Tourism directly received $7.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds that they primarily used for tourism marketing. These federal funds will no longer be available come January 2024. Due to this infusion of funds, Wisconsin is enjoying more visitation from travelers than our competitive set, such as Michigan and Minnesota. Michigan currently has a budget that is twice the size of Wisconsin's.The tourism industry is beginning to see meetings and conventions return, but at a slower pace than leisure travel.
In 2021, the total economic impact of tourism in Wisconsin was $20.9 billion, including $1.4 billion in state and local taxes. 2022 figures are not yet available, but it is expected that traveler expenditures will exceed pre-pandemic levels. It is important to note that inflation was not considered with these figures and it has certainly affected the industry’s bottom line. An increased promotional funding commitment will ensure that the industry will continue to prosper.
Destinations Wisconsin supports a one-time Tourism Capital Investment Grant Program similar to the 2022 Tourism Capital Grant Program, funded by the ARPA dollars, that helped fund tourism-related capital improvement projects across the state. The goal of these projects was to maintain and improve Wisconsin's tourism industry. There were 210 eligible applicants under the ARPA program requesting a total of $260 million, 27 of which received grants totaling $21.9 million. This was twice the amount awarded than originally proposed. The 27 grant recipients are making vital investments in their communities that support Wisconsin’s economy, create jobs and are making their communities better places to visit, live and work. There clearly is enormous demand and opportunity for investments into tourism capital projects.
Destinations Wisconsin also supports making the existing staff positions and funding for the Office of Outdoor Recreation permanent. Outdoor Recreation is an important driver for our tourism economy and this office helps to capitalize on the sector’s positive impact on the state.