As mild winter continues, Northwoods tourism entities seek help from state

‘Low snowfall equals catastrophic losses for Northwoods businesses,’ coalition says

For the Tomahawk Leader

NORTHERN WISCONSIN – Local tourism entities are asking the state for help after a slow start to winter has had “disastrous effects on Northwoods businesses and lodging properties.”

A Monday, Jan. 29 release from the Let’s Minocqua Visitors Bureau and the Oneida County Tourism Council said the coalition of chambers of commerce and visitors’ bureaus in the Northwoods of Wisconsin counties – including Forest, Iron, Langlade, Lincoln, Oneida, Price and Vilas – has spoken with the offices of State Representative Rob Swearingen (R-Rhinelander) and State Senator Mary Felzkowski (R-Tomahawk) “in hopes of securing some state or federal funding to mitigate the losses from lack of visitors in the wake of an unprecedented mild winter with minimal to no snowfall.”

“Many of our organizations have had conversations with our representatives alerting them to this crisis,” said Krystal Westfahl, President and CEO of the Let’s Minocqua Visitors Bureau, Chair of the Oneida County Tourism Council and member of the Northwoods of Wisconsin marketing coalition. “We need relief for our small businesses that support our economies. We rely on the weather to provide us snow in winter months, similar to our farmers relying on the rain, but our businesses have no immediate path to funding when a negative weather pattern happens. This will be catastrophic for our Northwoods economies.”

The release said businesses and lodging properties rely on the snow to bring in snowmobilers and other silent sports enthusiasts, who support the communities by staying in hotels and resorts, dining in local restaurants and bars and making purchases from area stores and gas stations.

“To date this winter, it’s estimated that the Northwoods of Wisconsin counties have lost roughly $6.5 million in revenue due to lack of adequate snow to open the trails in December and January,” the release stated. “Many businesses are reporting 75% to 80% year-over-year losses in the first few months of winter, and many are closing their doors.”

Westfahl said she hopes the state will “get creative and help the small business community in a part of the state that relies on tourism as its bread and butter.”

“Visitor spending is crucial to the economy here; crucial to the well-being of our communities and the good people who live and work in them,” Westfahl stated. “We’re hopeful we can find a way to work together to support each other through this rough patch.”

In 2022, tourism accounted for over 6,000 jobs in the seven Northwoods of Wisconsin counties, with visitor spending bringing in over $747 million to the area.

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