A project funded by state, county, cities and businesses to market Waupaca County as a tourism destination is now in its third year.
Known as the Waupaca County Tourism Cooperative, the project was launched after the state provided 75 percent of the funding for its first year.
In the project’s second year, the plan called for state funding to drop to 50 percent, then to 25 percent in the third year. In 2015, the project will be fully funded from local sources.
In addition to the state, Waupaca County, the Waupaca County Economic Development Corporation (WCEDC), UW Extension and eight municipalities contributed to the project.
The total budget for the Wauaca County Tourism Cooperative 2014 was $54,735.
Of that amount, $12,500 came from the state, $12,000 came from the municipalities, $12,000 came from Waupaca County and $18,235 came from local businesses that benefit from tourism.
“In fact, the local businesses, as a group, contributed the largest amount of money to the 2014 budget,” according to Dave Thiel, executive director of WCEDC.
In a report to the Waupaca County Board, Thiel said 37 retail and service businesses contributed to the 2014 budget.
“Since 97 cents of every dollar spent by a visitor to Waupaca County is spent in our retail and service sector businesses, it is very important that they support this project now and in the future,” Thiel said.
While the first year of the project was devoted to research and setting up digital marketing tools, in the second year the cooperative launched its Facebook page and website, as well as posted its first video.
In 2013, the number of unique visitors to its website was 2,298. That number grew to 4,674 in 2013.
The county tourism Facebook page garnered 908 likes in 2013, which grew to 2,132 the following year. The Facebook page reached about 40,500 people weekly in 2013.
In the same period of time, views of the county tourism video went from 3,306 to 11,812.
“The momentum is starting to build,” Thiel said.
Figures from the Wisconsin Department of Tourism indicate that revenues from tourists to Waupaca County grew by $2.6 million between 2012 and 2013.
In preparing a budget for 2015, Thiel projects receiving the same amount from municipalities next year as this year.
He projects Waupaca County would double its contribution to $24,000, while local businesses will contribute $40,000 in 2015.
“Based on all the years that I have been in the community and economic development business, I would argue that this program is the most effective assistance that local governments can provide to the retail and service sectors in their communities,” Thiel said.