The power of tourism

It wasn’t too long ago that the list of popular Wisconsin tourist destinations pretty much started and ended with Wisconsin Dells and Door County. Today, the list is long, filled with communities and areas that have been discovered and admired by visitors for their natural and man-made attractions. The fact that Ozaukee County ranks high among them is more than a source of pride for residents; it’s a sign of vitality and a force in sustaining a high quality of living.

Tourism contributed $209 million to the Ozaukee County economy is 2021, according to the Wisconsin Department of Tourism.

Judging from observations at popular summer spots around the county, Ozaukeeans are generally welcoming to tourists. Sure, there may be occasional irritation over, say, a prolonged traffic blockage caused by a visitor trying to parallel park his RV on a downtown street, or pedestrians pausing in a crosswalk to check their phone messages while drivers in idling vehicles wait. But overall, residents seem eager to meet and greet visitors, answer their questions and share the reasons they are proud of their communities.

And well they should, for visitors make life better for residents. Some of the shops and restaurant favored by residents in the county’s two most popular destinations, Port Washington and Cedarburg, could not exist without the business generated by tourists. Small towns without a robust visitor economy have little means to resist the decline of their downtown business districts.

Some public amenities are less likely to exist without visitor support. The Port Washington marina in the heart of the city provides extraordinary public access to Lake Michigan and a safe and convenient boat launching and mooring facility for residents, but most of the revenue that supports it is generated by non-residents.

Enlightened municipal government representatives understand that parks, nature preserves and other taxpayer-financed features that benefit their constituents also help sustain local economies by attracting visitors. Tax dollars spent to create and maintain the Ozaukee Interurban Trail benefit residents not only by providing them with recreational and nature-viewing opportunities, but also by attracting thousands of visitors each year who patronize Ozaukee hotels, restaurants and shops. County officials estimate that the 30-mile trail had more than half a million users in 2020.

Some visitors to Ozaukee County stay, and that is a driving force in local economic growth and development. As Kathy Tank, executive director of the Port Washington Tourism Council pointed out in a recent business page story in Ozaukee Press, “Almost all new residents, business owners, property investors and workers had their first contact with Port Washington as a tourist, either leisure or business.”

Impressions made in those tourist visits account in large part for Port’s booming lakefront development. Scores of those new condo units are occupied by visitors who became residents, and are now sharing their diverse backgrounds, energy, enthusiasm and economic support in their new hometown.

And so, let’s say it loudly, amplify it, light it up, emblazon it on imagined billboards:

Welcome to Ozaukee County!


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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
(262) 284-3494


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