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Statistics Offer Positive Outlook for Port Tourism

Wisconsin visitors spent more money in 2011 over 2010, and the tourism industry in Port Washington and well as Ozaukee County is following suit.

It's no secret that Port Washington's streets grow busier in the summer, a trend that's thanks to warmer weather, fishing opportunities — and tourism, to name a few.

Though the tourism industry has struggled since the economic downturn, and "staycations," are often a more popular choice than tropical getaways, state numbers indicate that people are getting back to traveling.

"Visitors to Wisconsin spent nearly $10 billion in 2011, an 8 percent increase from the previous year, according to a study released ... by the state Department of Tourism," an article on JSOnline.com reports.

Though Port Washington's numbers aren't quite as high, Kathy Tank, executive director of the Port Washington Tourism Council, said things are slowly but surely getting better for the city.

In 2009, when Port's economy saw a large economic dip across the board, lodging was down 17 percent, Tank said. Since then, the lodging industry has made a "slow but steady" recovery.

In 2011, Port Washington's room tax receipts were up 2.5 percent over 2010, meaning more people were staying in Port hotels. While Tank said she does not have a breakdown of spending in Port Washington alone, county-wide that number is also on the rise.

In 2010, tourists spent $71.1 million in Ozaukee County followed by $74.3 million spent in 2011 — an increase of almost 4.5 percent, she said. The tourism industry also generated 1,873 jobs county-wide in 2011.

A lot of tourism comes to the city because of the charter fishing industry in Port Washington — which not only brings in fisherman but also extra people.

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"Many who come to fish with a charter captain do not just fish, but they eat in our restaurants, shop in the stores, sleep in the hotels," said Kathy Tank, executive director of the Port Washington Tourism Council. "Our economy relies very heavily on tourism generated by the recreational opportunities of the lake, and charter fishing plays a major role in this. Everything went down in 2009, (and) I'm sure the decline in charters definitely contributed."

Officials also look forward to the , which they hope will bring an estimated 300,000 additional people to Port each year.

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