Wisconsin’s 95 state parks, representing the nation’s oldest state park system, attract 14 million visitors annually and generate an estimated $650 million in tourism dollars, according to a report in the Green Bay Press Gazette.
“We’re a big part of the tourism economy in the state,” said Peter Biermeier, section chief for external relations for Wisconsin state parks, citing information gleaned in a 2002 study by the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “We’re an important cog in the wheel for the economy, especially in the rural parts of the state in particular.”
Biermeier said beautiful landscapes and park accommodations attract campers to Wisconsin’s 4,500 state park campsites, noting that spaces were going fast for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend.
“It’s best to seek out reservations as early as possible,” said Biermeier. “Typically, for the holidays, campsites are reserved well in advance.”
Despite rising gasoline prices that have worried some tourism-related business owners, Wisconsin travelers appear to be unaffected.
Jerry Huffman, communications director for the Wisconsin Department of Tourism, cited tourism department figures released this month that show traveler spending increased last fall, when gas prices were at their highest.
“That’s significant because the fall season was the first real measure of that higher gas price on the state’s economy,” said Huffman.
The report also stated that travelers in Wisconsin spent an estimated $11.95 billion in the state last year, an increase of 1.4% over 2004. Tourism officials estimate that 25% of those dollars are spent on recreation, which includes camping.
“Camping is part of our state’s identity, which is the woods and the water,” said Huffman. “If you spend a week in a state park, your average price is going to be really low, just because it is such a good value.”