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Official: Big events brought more tourists to Wisconsin

May 6, 2019

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A Milwaukee Brewers playoff run and a giant Harley-Davidson birthday party helped boost tourism spending in Wisconsin last year, state officials said Monday.

Visitor spending in Wisconsin increased by nearly 5 percent in 2018, to $13.3 billion, according to a report released Monday by the Department of Tourism. The state saw 112 million visitors, which was 2 million more than it had in 2017. Visitation has now grown by at least 2 percent in each of the past five years.

Kristina LeVan, a Department of Tourism spokeswoman, said several large events drew visitors to Wisconsin last year, including the Brewers first playoff games in seven years and Harley-Davidson’s days-long 115th anniversary celebration in Milwaukee in late August and early September.

She noted that Madison hosted the CrossFit Games and speculated that large numbers of golfers may have visited Wisconsin to play the Erin Hills course, which hosted the 2017 U.S. Open. Golfers typically travel to courses that hold major events to experience playing on them, she said.

The report, which was compiled by research company Tourism Economics, found that the recreational, lodging, food and beverage sectors all saw upticks in spending. The most spending occurred in the lodging sector, at $3.6 billion, which was up from $3.4 billion in 2017.

The tourism industry generated $1.2 billion in federal tax revenue, $879 million in state tax revenue and $703 million in local tax revenue, the report found. The industry supported nearly 200,000 jobs in the state last year.

Tourism Secretary Sara Meaney and Gov. Tony Evers planned to travel the state this week to promote the report. Their schedule Monday included stops at Rib Mountain State Park in Wausau and Great Northern Distilling in Plover. They planned to visit to Island Outdoors, a bait shop and watercraft rental business on French Island just outside La Crosse; the Pablo Center at the Confluence, a performing arts center in Eau Claire; and Sassy Cow Creamery in Columbus on Tuesday.

They’ll finish their joint tour Wednesday with a visit to Milwaukee’s Mitchell International Airport.

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This story has been updated to correct that Great Northern Distilling is a distillery, not a brewery.

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Follow Todd Richmond on Twitter at https://twitter.com/trichmond1

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