A strong summer continues a positive trend
School begins next week, the days are getting shorter, and soon leaves will begin their transformation from vibrant green to warm oranges, reds, gold. It’s Labor Day weekend which is said to signal the unofficial end to the summer. Yet Wisconsinites are not ready to throw in the towel. AAA Wisconsin, part of the Auto Club Group predicts more people will be traveling 50 miles or more this holiday weekend than in 2013, and nationwide, it is expected there will be more cars on the road today than any year since 2008.
That’s a trend that tracks locally, too. According to Rhinelander Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Dana DeMet, the harsh winter may have delayed vacationers a couple of weeks. “The good news is that I have heard very positive remarks about July,” DeMet said, “when businesses can make or break their year.”
There are several factors that can be used to evaluate the success of a ‘tourist season,’ such as the amount of room tax collected, number of inquiries received and fulfilled through the Chamber of Commerce, website traffic and promotion popularity and through anecdotal evidence from lodging owners and restaurant and retail businesses. DeMet said there is reason to be optimistic.
“Based on room tax collected from area lodgers through 2nd Quarter 2014, we are seeing room tax collections higher than any other year since 2008, and even more,” he added, “We have seen room tax collections increase steadily since about 2010 which indicates more people staying at these locations, hence, more tourist spending.” Room tax is collected in the City of Rhinelander and town of Pelican from hotels, resorts, bed and breakfasts, and distributed through the Rhinelander Tourism Marketing Committee to non-profit groups who plan events to draw overnight visitors to the city.
Development projects in the Rhinelander area the past six months have been good for the hospitality industry, too. Projects like the new PrintPack facility, Kwik Trip and Dunkin’ Donuts among others require housing for a large number of out of town workers. “Rhinelander did have a fair amount of those bookings,” said Erin Skinner, General Manager at Rhinelander’s AmericInn, “but overall tourism traffic has been as good, if not better than previous years.” Skinner also credits new events and happenings in the area, and something as simple as pleasant weather.
Keeping the numbers going in the right direction will require a little continued help from Mother Nature. “We really have to have the seasons live up to their expected conditions to continue the positive visitor trends,” DeMet says. “Good weather over deer season will go a long way in helping the fall season, as well as good colors for or weekend trippers to make to our area.”
The Farmers’ Almanac is predicting another snowy cold winter which can be great for snowmobile tourists, unless the snow hits too far south causing those potential tourists to stay home and access closer trails. With a snow-filled forecast looming months ahead, both DeMet and Skinner say they hope that people are looking to take advantage of the late summer weather and great driving conditions to take one more road trip to the Northwoods.