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Tourism & the Visitor Economy: Working Together to Accomplish Common Goals

by JULIE GILBERT, President/CEO, Destination Door County

I am very excited to have the opportunity to write a monthly column for the Peninsula Pulse about tourism and our visitor economy. I look forward to providing insight about Destination Door County and what we’re doing as a community, shared-values organization that’s focusing on community outreach, sustainable tourism and values-based marketing. 

As a starting point, I want to share the vision, mission and promise statements that guide us through our decision-making processes.

A vision statement defines a dream or long-term goal. Our vision is, “A better life for all of Door County through strong, sustainable practices supported by local communities that welcome a diverse group of explorers.”

A mission statement summarizes our values. Our mission is: “To inspire travel that drives community enhancement. Through innovation and partnerships, we will share stories of Door County’s people and places, deliver world-class experiences, strengthen the industry, work to ensure all travelers feel welcome and preserve Door County’s way of life and its natural resources.”

A promise is the experience that we want to deliver in everything we do. Our promise is: “We will promote travel to Door County in a way that aims to minimize the environmental and social impact while maximizing economic impact. We strive to foster a local sense of place to ensure quality of life for residents that creates a positive impact on the county.”

These statements ensure that we, as an organization, stay aligned with what we’re trying to accomplish. 

As part of that, we’ve changed our business model from a dues-based membership organization to a non-dues partnership organization. This brings all of us together by welcoming any Door County business, organization or nonprofit to become a partner at no charge. 

Partners appear on our website, DoorCounty.com, and can participate in our programs without paying membership dues. Partners may also buy in to any of our paid marketing initiatives. We know that we’re better working together to accomplish a common goal. Visit DoorCounty.com/partnership to learn more. 

As we look at our 2021 tourism economic impact, the overall impact of tourism on Door County’s economy totaled $531 million, which was up $134 million (33.7%) over 2020 and up $53 million (11%) compared to 2019. These totals include direct, indirect and induced impacts. 

Direct visitor spending in Door County totaled $423 million in 2021 – an increase of $119 million (39%) over 2020 and up $51 million (13.7%) compared to 2019. Tourism supported a total of 3,323 jobs in Door County in 2021 and generated $102.5 million in employee wages.

What do these figures tell us? They highlight the economic impact that the visitor economy generates in Door County for our residents and how tourism supports the families that live here.

We know the health of our community’s economy depends on a strong travel economy. We need to be mindful that without our visitor economy, our community of 30,000 year-round residents simply wouldn’t be able to support many of the activities, restaurants, performing-arts opportunities and other assets that everyone, both residents and visitors, can experience in our destination today. 

We will continue to tell the story of Door County – our history, our arts, our culture, our community and the people who live here – using strategies that help balance visitation while continuing to support everyone who calls Door County home. 

I started my new role as president/CEO in November 2021, so this will be my first summer in Door County. I’m really looking forward to experiencing everything that happens in this beautiful place during the next few months, and as a resident, I feel fortunate to have such a wide variety of opportunities available. 

With so many things going on in such a beautiful place, it’s no surprise that the number of visitors will increase; traffic will pick up; our parks will entertain more people; and business will be more robust at our restaurants, shops and attractions.

Let’s welcome our visitors and show them what a great place we live in, while also helping to educate them about why it’s important to explore this beautiful county responsibly. Leading by example will help our visitors to better understand their role in keeping Door County the special place that it is – a place we all love and cherish – for generations to come. Please don’t hesitate to email me at [email protected]. I look forward to hearing your thoughts and suggestions to help us continue growing in a positive direction.