OMA, Wis. - About 25 people attended a tourism workshop on Thursday to raise awareness of the industry's importance to the Iron County area.
The workshop was organized by the Iron County Development Zone and the Hurley and Mercer chambers of commerce.
The first speaker was Cindy Burzinski, director of Vilas County Tourism and Publicity, who also sits on Gov. Scott Walker's Council on Tourism.
Burzinski discussed the economic impacts of tourism for Iron County, customer service statistics and tourism advertising.
Tourism and marketing go hand in hand, she said.
"If you're not going to invite the visitors to your area, they're not going to come," she said. "Market, market, market; because the visitors won't come unless you're marketing."
According to numbers provided by the Wisconsin Department of Tourism, $1.4 billion in state and local taxes were created by visitors, both directly by tourists themselves and indirectly, through those interacting with tourists.
The tourism industry had a $17.5 billion economic impact on Wisconsin last year, up 4 percent from 2012.
Burzinski believed Wisconsin's success with the tourism industry was "because they're making it all about fun.
"What we have to offer here, who wouldn't want to come and visit?" she said. "And one thing we've been told time and time again is that Wisconsin people are friendly."
Locally, Iron County's tourism revenues decreased. There was about $18.9 million in tourist expenditures in Iron County for 2013, a decrease of about 3.6 percent from 2012.
Visitors to Iron County still generated about $2.4 million in state and local taxes for 2013, but it, too, was down 2.4 percent from 2012.
Tourism has been, and will continue to be an industry crucial to Wisconsin's economic growth, Burzinski said, but the mission is to bring people here throughout all four seasons.
Kelly Klein, coordinator of the Iron County Development Zone, echoed that point.
"We've traditionally done a real good job at promoting snowmobiling and ATVing, and we continue to do that on an annual basis," he said. "But we have an opportunity to reach out to other markets, as well."
The second speaker was Al Hanley, former director of the Minocqua Area Chamber of Commerce.
He discussed the importance of marketing through different avenues and marketing to diverse groups of people.
"Marketing is all sorts of facets," he said, adding that relying on just print or radio marketing strategies may not always work. "If you're going to go with a company for a marketing program, make sure that they have come up to the 2014 level."
But more importantly businesses and the government need to work together to create a vibrant economy, he said.
"It's not just the state's responsibility to get people to Iron County," Hanley said. "We've got to get the local business owners back involved and spending a little bit more money. My biggest suggestion to get Iron County back to like it was is to team together. Pool your money; put it all in there together and you're going to get some results. It's a vicious circle, but we all need each other."
Once people are in the area, businesses need to roll out the red carpet for them, Burzinski said. Otherwise, they'll go spend their money somewhere else.
Burzinski said 68 percent of customers who don't return to an establishment cite that they experienced an attitude of indifference or rudeness by the owner, manager or an employee of the business.