Ben Meyer/WXPR

Hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant money will flow to Northwoods counties to help support the tourism industry.

The state just announced the distribution of the grants, which especially benefit Vilas and Oneida counties.

Chambers of commerce and tourism organizations in Vilas County will get more than $400,000 in grant funding, while the same groups will get $300,000 in Oneida County.

It’s through the state Department of Tourism’s TRAVEL grant program, and the money comes from federal CARES Act dollars.

Dept. of Tourism

Better economic conditions and stepped up marketing has led to a nearly 5 percent increase in tourist spending in Wisconsin last year.

State Department of  Tourism Secretary Stephanie Klett says Northwoods counties saw more than a 4 percent increase in spending. In Oneida county alone, total tourism sales topped $215 million dollars. Klett says lower gas prices meant visitors had more money to spend...

Tourism Spending On the Upswing in Oneida, Vilas Counties

Jun 15, 2015
Natalie Jablonski / WXPR News

Room tax receipts were up ten percent in the Rhinelander area in the first quarter of this year.

Chamber Director Dana DeMet says that’s a significant increase from last year.

“That would indicate a really strong showing over the winter months, he says. "Plus you compare that, the 2014 winter was one of the biggest on record.  So even though we had more snow, colder temperatures in 2014, 2015 actually shaped up to be a better winter in terms of tourism numbers.”

Tribes Gather To Discuss Tourism, Marketing Strategies

Jun 9, 2015
Natalie Jablonski / WXPR News


Representatives from the state’s eleven tribes are wrapping up a conference on Native American tourism. Many are looking to tourism to provide an economic boost.  

The Sokoagon Chippewa Community hosted the annual Native American Tourism of Wisconsin, or NATOW, conference this week.  Tribes from around the state gathered in Mole Lake to talk about fresh ways to market themselves and draw visitors.

New Study Determines Economic Value of Clean Water

May 20, 2015

Remember that old MasterCard commercial, asserting that that value of some things are priceless? What about clean water? Emily Bright brings us a new Vilas County study that puts an economic value on its surface water—and it might be higher than you think.

"Are you really going out today?"

"Oh, yeah. I surf all winter in New York so, it’s all good."

Winter Visitors Flock To Ski and Snowmobile Trails

Jan 6, 2015
Joe Ross

There wasn’t enough snow in Eagle River to build its famous ice castle this year, but there is enough to make winter recreation enthusiasts happy.  

Good snow conditions and low gas prices mean tourists are coming north to enjoy winter sports. Kim Emerson, Executive Director of the Eagle River Area Chamber of Commerce and Visitor’s Center, says as usual over Christmas break there were many visitors out cross country skiing, snowshoeing, ice fishing, and, of course, snowmobiling.

Focus Groups to Weigh In on Rhinelander Dining Options

Oct 3, 2014

Restaurant owners in Rhinelander are looking for input about what they can do differently.  Oneida County UW Extension is organizing two focus groups Monday night…to talk about dining options in Rhinelander. 

Extension Agent Tim Brown says several recent surveys have revealed a sense of public dissatisfaction with the Rhinelander restaurant scene.  The focus groups hope to identify some of what the public is looking for. 

Minocqua Chamber Welcomes Krystal Westfahl

Aug 26, 2014

Minocqua’s Chamber of Commerce has a new executive director.  Krystal Westfahl started the job last week, filling the position vacated by outgoing director Kim Baltus, who was there for three years.

Westfahl is an Appleton native, who spent time in the Northwoods growing up while visiting the Mellen area.  She says she’s excited to get to know Minocqua. 

Tourist Season Off to Solid Start

May 29, 2014

Now that Memorial Day weekend is behind us, many businesses are reporting a strong start to the summer tourism season. 

Minocqua Chamber of Commerce Director Kim Baltus says business seems to have been higher than usual for the holiday weekend. 

 “It was definitely up for the businesses that I spoke to.  I talked to a couple of different restaurants that said it was their largest Saturday on Memorial Weekend that they’ve ever had.  Typically Memorial Day is not the best weekend – but we certainly proved that wrong.” 

Officials Warn Travelers Of EAB Risk

May 19, 2014

State agriculture officials want travelers to remember the risk of spreading emerald ash borer through firewood.  Just in time for the start of the summer tourism season, the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection has declared it Emerald Ash Borer Awareness Week. 

Spokesperson Donna Gilson says the beetles can travel a mile or two on their own.  But humans have helped them spread much farther. 

Milwaukee Public TV Program to Focus on Rhinelander

May 11, 2014

Rhinelander is set to have its moment in the spotlight on Milwaukee Public Television.

The city has been selected for an episode of the show Around The Corner, hosted by John McGivern.  It’s a weekly half hour segment on public tv that focuses on living and working in different communities around Wisconsin. 

Rhinelander Chamber of Commerce Director Dana DeMet says he hopes it will attract attention for the Rhinelander area.

The Rhinelander Tourism Marketing Committee has awarded 13 area non-profits grants to promote winter activities coming up.

Chamber of Commerce Director Lara Reed says the committee awards grants twice a year.....


"anybody in the Rhinelader community who is a non-profit organization who works to either host an event or has a program to draw in visitors and tourists is eligible to submit a grant application..."

She says the state requires room tax money collected from visitors be used to attract other visitors...

With permission

As the Oneida County Board recently wrestled to balance its 2014 budget, a proposed cut would have struck $10,000 from the county tourism council's budget.

Rhinelander Chamber Director Lara Reed said cutting the promotional budget for tourism could hurt the local economy as tourism revenue generates tax base...


" in Oneida county spent $185 million dollars(this year)...that's $5,193 dollars for every man, woman and child in the county. Traveler spending supports 2,070 full-time equivalent jobs..."

Gearing up for Cranberry Onslaught

Oct 4, 2013
Pen Waggener

In spite of a rainy forecast, Eagle River is bracing for some 40,000 visitors to Cranberry Fest. 

Organizer Kim Emerson is busy setting up for the weekend festival. 

“Some of the preparations we’re working on is getting all the big tents set up, we’ve got to get all the crafter booths set up so all the vendors know where their spot is, get the fresh cranberries and craisins set up.”

Celebrating Roads Less Traveled

Sep 30, 2013
Randen Pederson

As fall color enters its prime, it’s Rustic Roads week. Since 1973 the state Department of Transportation given the designation to over a hundred lightly traveled roads in Wisconsin.

Rustic Roads Coordinator Jane Carrola says the program was a unique idea when it began.

"I like to refer to the Rustic Roads program as a 'Wisconsin original,'" she says. "It was a very innovative idea in 1973 and Wisconsin was one of the first states to have such a program.”