MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The coronavirus pandemic caused a 30% decline in direct spending by tourists in Wisconsin in 2020, but officials are optimistic the industry will rebound this year.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Tourism, spending dropped about $4 billion last year to $9.8 billion. All of Wisconsin’s 72 counties experienced a decline in tourism activity last year compared to 2019. But officials say the first four months of this year are shaping up to be better than 2019.
Acting Tourism Secretary Anne Sayers said people are “getting revenge” on COVID-19 and scheduling the vacations they missed because of it, Wisconsin Public Radio reported.
Sayers says national research shows 87% of Americans plan to travel in the next six months.
“We’re also finding vacations of two or more nights are up, so Wisconsin is already passing 2020, but we are also surpassing 2019, and that was a record-setting year,” Sayers said.
La Crosse County’s tourism revenue was down at least 30 percent, after a rise of almost 1 percent the year before, when visitors added $281 million to the county’s economy. Trempealeau and Buffalo Counties had the lowest percentage of tourism loss among area counties.
Dane and Milwaukee counties, which rely heavily on tourists for sports, cultural events, conventions and business travel, were the hardest hit in the state.
Direct spending was down last year 39% in Dane County and 42.5% in Milwaukee County, compared to 2019, according to the Department of Tourism.