A progress report on the countywide tourism project was presented to the Manawa Common Council at its May meeting.
The report was presented by Dave Thiel, director of Waupaca County Economic Development; Bill Zeinert, marketing director for the Waupaca County Tourism Project; and Mike Koles, Waupaca County Community Development Educator.
“We really can’t compete well as individual cities,” Thiel said. “We need to do a better job of bringing jobs in.”
The key to improving the county’s economy is to increase tourism, according to Thiel.
“Tourism is the retail sector – it’s where tourists spend the most money,” he explained.
Tourism generates $100 million annually to Waupaca County, according to Thiel. The county receives a total of $250,000 in room tax, of which only about 20 percent to 25 percent is currently spent on attracting visitors back to the area.
Zeinert presented the county’s logo and brand, “It’s Your Day,” which was chosen by a 16-member task force representing all of the participating communities.
“We need to build a brand that empowers visitors,” Zeinert said.
He plans to begin marketing Waupaca County through Facebook, a website and other digital communication portals. He also talked about the potential to reach targeted audiences through cable TV advertising.
Zeinert said there are three specific lifestyle types that tend to visit Waupaca County. Some come for the hunting and fishing, others come for the local history, others for special events, etc.
“We have some of the best walleye fishing in the Midwest in our area,” Zeinert said. He noted there are 296 named bodies of water in Waupaca County.
“We need to be true to who we are,” he stressed.
Zeinert noted that the tourism project has already produced four marketing videos of businesses in the area. The goal is to complete four more videos so every participating municipality is covered.
Participating in the tourism project are Manawa, Waupaca, Weyauwega, Clintonville, Iola, New London, Fremont and Marion.
Thiel said the tourism project is designed as a three-year program, with a state grant helping for the first two years. At the end of a successful three-years, the program should be able to be self-sufficient, he explained. “I feel like we have a really good start into identifying what makes us different,” Thiel said”It has never been more difficult to run a small business than it is today,” Zeinert said.
The program is especially important for a city like Manawa, Thiel noted. “At one point, Manawa was the central hub for all the people in the area,” he said. “(The city) hasn’t adjusted to that loss, yet.”
Questions and answers
Council members had some concerns about the tourism project. Responding to their questions were Zeinert, Thiel and Koles.
Q: Does Waupaca County need more hotels/motels?
A: A different study would be needed before that could be determined, Koles explained. He noted that the survey of tourists was focused on the Waupaca area, and not the entire county.
“If the market was really significant, (the motels/hotels) would be here already,” Thiel said.
Q: Where do the clients of large businesses stay?
A: Most stay in Waupaca, Shawano and the larger cities. There are a few places, like the Cobblestone in Clintonville, that focus on business travelers.
Q: Why isn’t Manawa included on the cable TV map?
A: Manawa’s cable TV is provided through the Manawa Telephone Company, a local internet service.