Tourism and the Visitor Economy: Visitor Economy Is Alive and Well in Door County

by JULIE GILBERT, President and CEO, Destination Door County

The “visitor economy.” What does that really mean?

It is meeting the expectations of our visitors, ensuring that we are maintaining our communities’ core values and sustaining all that we hold near and dear. 

The core concept of the visitor economy is the economic impact of visitors, but it’s even broader than that. We need to better understand the additional elements that make Door County a visitor-economy success.

All the things to see and do that attract visitors to Door County include the natural environment and our heritage, culture, arts, food, events and residents. These attributes make us so proud of our home and communities and make them special, distinctive and worth experiencing and living within. 

Throughout Door County, we all strive to help reinforce and shape the sense of place that makes it easy to visit and spend quality time here. The services that cater to the needs of visitors and residents create the economic and social activity that provide our communities with a positive financial impact. This supports jobs, generates additional tax revenue and ensures that we residents can experience more variety in our restaurants, wineries, breweries, arts, historical offerings, shopping and many other activities that we all enjoy.

The five foundations that make up the visitor economy are meant to measure and help us better understand the true impact of visitors beyond the marketing-focused key performance indicators. 

The first foundation is demand generation, and how we target and market to visitors. We want to make sure we tell authentic stories that accurately reflect both the past and present to highlight our community’s identities, cultures and shared values. We want to encourage our visitors to care for Door County the way we do.

The second foundation is visitor distribution. We want to encourage visitors to explore the water, shoreline, woods, arts and culture, but we also want them to be mindful and embrace the overall ethos of “Leave it better” that is part of our Leave No Trace principles.

The third foundation is economic opportunity. Are our businesses experiencing manageable growth, and do they have a workforce they can build on to continue growing our tax base? 

The fourth foundation is accountability. This speaks to being good stewards of lodging tax dollars, ensuring that we are reporting on all our activities and continuing to be a community-shared values organization with transparency to all.

The fifth foundation is stability, and how we balance the economic, societal and environmental sustainability that contributes to an improved quality of life for all of our communities.

Visitors spent $423 million in Door County in 2021, and when you add the indirect and induced spending, that total reaches $531 million. This financial impact provides our communities with an opportunity to make improvements that benefit all of us. It also supports each occupied household in Door County, which would need to be taxed an additional $3,175 to replace the visitor taxes received by state and local governments in 2021, according to the Tourism Economics 2021 Economic Impact Report.

The visitor economy is alive and well in Door County.

Please don’t hesitate to email me at [email protected]. I look forward to your thoughts and suggestions to help us continue growing in a positive direction.