Tourism in Portage Co. tops $128 million

For the Metro Wire

Visitors spent $128.2 million in Portage County in 2017, the sixth year in a row that traveler expenditures topped $100 million in the county, according to figures released this week by the Wisconsin Department of Tourism.

The $128.2 million in visitor spending was an increase of 2.8 percent from the amount visitors spent in Portage County in 2016.

Ranked 23 out of all 72 counties for the state, Portage County saw sustained growth in visitor spending. When compared to neighboring counties in central Wisconsin, Portage County saw the second largest growth, behind Waupaca County.

“Watching the growth of tourism in Portage County is a testament to the work going on behind the scenes, both with the efforts of the Stevens Point Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, but also the work of tourism businesses and partners driving visitor interest,” said Sara Brish, executive director of the Stevens Point Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. “By leveraging how we standout and focusing on key experiences our region offers, we have been able to see continued growth and reinvest for tourism gains with a strategic approach.”

Brish said the increase in visitor spending locally can be attributed to several factors, including successful marketing campaigns, hosting numerous sports events and a strong meeting and convention market. The region also tracks other benchmark indicators that extend beyond the report by Tourism Economics.

In 2017, Average Daily Rates saw a 4.2 percent growth over the same time period, based on Smith Travel Research data.

Room tax collections for both Stevens Point and the Village of Plover were up by 4.8 percent in 2017 over the previous year, she added.

Last year also brought a number of new tourism businesses, including attractions, lodging, dining and shopping, to the region.

In Rosholt, McZ’s Brew Pub opened its doors as a family-friendly micro-brewery featuring wine, homemade soups, pizza and appetizers, in addition to their own craft beer.

In June, Feltz’s Dairy Store welcomed their first customers for not only local goods including meat, cheese and ice cream from King Cone, but to its state-of-the-art robotic milking parlor.

As summer came to a close, the Cobblestone Hotel and accompanying Wissota Chophouse opened. The property is the first hotel in downtown Stevens Point since the closure of the Whiting Hotel in 1986.

In September, Sentry Insurance opened the doors to Muse an up-scale dining experience where art blends between classics on the wall and the culinary masterpieces from the kitchen.

In late fall, Putt N Play opened in the Stevens Point Area, revisioning the well-known Bernards Country Inn to an indoor family friendly option.

The Stevens Point Area Convention & Visitors Bureau also established a Tourism Development Grant, which launched in the first quarter of 2017. This quarterly grant program distributes a percentage of room tax revenue for the development, continuance, or expansion of visitor attractions and amenities to not-for-profits and units of government.

To apply, visit StevensPointArea.com/grant for full grant requirements. The next grant requests are due June 1.