Tourism surging in Ozaukee County and Port

Driven in large part by city, visitor industry added $209 million to county economy last year

Tourism contributed $209 million in total economic impact to the Ozaukee County economy in 2021, according to data released by the Wisconsin Department of Tourism.

The state report showed that tourism generated 1,940 full and part-time jobs in Ozaukee County last year, up 8.6 % over 2020.

Statewide, tourism added $20.9 billion to the Wisconsin economy in 2021.

Port Washington, through the marketing efforts of the Port Washington Tourism Council, is one of the primary drivers of tourism in Ozaukee County.

Tourism has become a key contributor to economic development in Port Washington. Beyond its direct support of local retail and service businesses, tourism stimulates growth of the economy and the community, according to Kathy Tank, executive director of the Port Washington Tourism Council.

“Almost all new residents, business owners, property investors and workers had their first contact with Port Washington as a tourist, either leisure or business,” she said.

“The power of tourism is that its economic impact extends beyond the initial dollars spent,” she added. “Every dollar that is spent by a tourist circulates locally on an average of seven times before it lands in someone’s savings.”

Tourism marketing is funded in Port Washington by the hotel room tax, allowing the Tourism Council to build what Tank described as a “robust, multi-faceted marketing strategy that has made Port a recognized destination throughout the state, as well as over the border into Illinois, Minnesota and Iowa.”

Print and digital advertising in regional newspapers and magazines, targeted digital campaigns, social media platforms and high-traffic websites are used to attract visitors. All of the marketing directs people to the Port tourism website.

The newly redesigned attracts visitors with compelling images that, Tank said, “capture the essence of Port Washington, showcasing people enjoying all of its beauty and amenities in all seasons.”

Even when the pandemic interrupted tourism, Tank said, we made every effort  to market Port as a destination for the future. “Though people were not traveling at that time, we wanted to make sure that when people felt comfortable to travel, Port Washington would be top of mind.”

The Tourism Council, which is the city’s designated destination-marketing organization, was able to this by seeking out every available source of funding, including an SBA loan and two grants from the State of Wisconsin, Tank said.

“Those efforts paid off last year when Port Washington tourist revenue not only exceeded 2020 in tourism impact, but also that of pre-pandemic 2019,” she said.

Tank noted that room tax revenue increased 11.6% over 2019, indicative of increased occupancy of hotel rooms and other lodging in the city. Besides funding all of Port Washington’s tourism marketing, the tax generates revenue for city government operations, last year amounting to $90,000.

The Tourism Department also reported: Tourism supported more than 169,700 full and part-time jobs statewide in 2021. Visitors generated $1.4 billion in state and local taxes because of tourism spending.



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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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