Travelers spent $124.7 million in Portage County communities in 2016

STEVENS POINT, Wis. (May 5, 2017) – Visitors spent $124.7 million in Portage County in 2016, the fifth year in a row that traveler expenditures topped $100 million in the county, according to figures released today by the Wisconsin Department of Tourism.

The $124.7 million in visitor spending was an increase of 4.27% from the amount visitors spent in Portage County in 2015. Ranked 23 out of all 72 counties for the state, Portage County saw the largest growth in visitor spending when compared to neighboring counties in central Wisconsin.

“Strong growth in tourism for Portage County is a positive indicator that our efforts to promote the region as a destination for leisure visitors, meetings planners and sports events and groups is right on target,” said Sara Brish, executive director of the Stevens Point Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. “By building off of previous years’ successes and reinvesting tourism gains with a strategic approach, the Stevens Point Area is experiencing positive returns.”

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 in 2016. Since 2012, the region has seen other positive indicators that extend beyond the report by Tourism Economics. Occupancy rates have increased more than 6 percent and Average Daily Rates (ADR) have seen more than 14 percent growth over the same time period, based on Smith Travel Research data. Room tax collections, the amount a visitor pays during an overnight stay that is collected by the municipality, has grown more than 30 percent.

“This growth shows how important it is to use room tax dollars for their intended purpose, tourism promotion and tourism development, and what smart investment can do,” said Amy Boston, board chair for the Stevens Point Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.

In 2017, the region will host the Federal Duck Stamp Contest in September on the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point campus. The fall will also bring the first newly constructed hotel to the region, with the addition of Cobblestone, bringing the total hotel rooms in the region to 1274. Feltz Dairy Store is also slated to open in early June, featuring the region’s strong agritourism industry with fresh cheese, ice cream and an inside peek to a working dairy farm.

Campaigns celebrating the arts and culture of the community bring awareness to the community in the spring—including visual arts, performing arts, culinary arts and the art of brewing— across multiple platforms.  The campaigns continued to generate local economic impact in the spring. Then, in May and June the focus shifts to outdoor recreation with the new ‘Get Out & Play’ promotion, which is partly attributed to the seasonal increase in occupancy of 5.7 percent. Momentum continued with successful promotions like the ‘Central Wisconsin Craft Collective’ campaign each fall. The campaign promoted the Stevens Point Area’s craft breweries, wineries and distillery.

“The Stevens Point Area has great tourism assets, which we use in a targeted approach to help bring visitors to the region,” Brish said. “Much of the work our office does is often behind the scenes. While it may go unseen it doesn’t go unnoticed. The work we do makes a positive impact it throughout Portage County, supporting local businesses by supporting events and bringing new events, groups and business to region.“

The study, conducted by Tourism Economics, shows the impact of tourism on Wisconsin’s economy. Tourism continues to be one of Wisconsin’s most important economic resources. Research shows that tourism advertising goes beyond just promoting vacations; it also positively influences the state’s overall image as a great place to live, find a job, or open a business.

“Traveler spending has grown an average of 4.5% per year since 2011,” Tourism Secretary Stephanie Klett said. “It’s a tremendous credit to the tourism industry in all 72 counties and the work they do to create fun vacation experiences, market their destinations, and provide great customer service that makes travelers want to return to Wisconsin each year.”

Klett added, “These results also let us know what we are doing is working and that investing in tourism not only benefits the economy, it also influences the way people think about Wisconsin.”

To celebrate National Travel & Tourism Week the SPACVB will be hosting events in May and June. The first is the annual FAM(iliarization) Tour of Portage County, a three hour guided tour with abbreviated site tours throughout the region. Planned for May 31, 2017 the annual event features popular attractions and points of interest in the region. Geared to front line staff the event is open to anyone who’d like to attend. To register, call 715-344-2556. The second event will be the annual Tourism Takeover. The Tourism Takeover will be held at Feltz’s Dairy Story in June. A date and more details will be available later this month.

"These events allow us to engage with the local residents who don't realize that tourism is an important part of the economy throughout Portage County," said Brish. “We hope to engage with residents during the Tourism Takeover to showcase some of the tourism resources the region has. “  

The Stevens Point Area Convention &Visitors Bureau is an economic and community development organization whose purpose is to expand Portage County’s economy by attracting conventions, sporting events and leisure tourists to Portage County. Millions of dollars from visitor spending and increased tax revenues are generated to increase commerce, sustain jobs and to create a desirable destination.

For more information about the Stevens Point Area, visit The SPACVB can also be found on Facebook (, Twitter ( and Pinterest ( and Instagram (