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October 27, 2022

The October Eggs & Issues event focused on the impact tourism has on the Eau Claire area economy. Benny Anderson, the Executive Director of Visit Eau Claire, shared the changes Visit Eau Claire has made during the pandemic regarding digital marketing, and how those changes are currently making a big difference. Pre-pandemic, Eau Claire tourism had remained steady year to year, with many of the website visits being from the local audience. During the pandemic, Visit Eau Claire brought many of its operations in-house to help save money for digital marketing campaigns. Many of these campaigns were focused locally to help keep businesses afloat. Larger metropolitan areas such as the Twin Cities are within driving distance, and this made Eau Claire an attractive option for a vacation when airlines were facing massive delays.

In 2021, Anderson said Visit Eau Claire was beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel with their digital marketing campaigns paying off. Visit Eau Claire worked to push more digital advertisements in a larger area, and help their business partners create a comeback story. 2021 ended up being a great year for tourism in the area, with the Wisconsin Farm Technology Days, and the return of Country Jam. These events helped to bring 500,000 unique users to Visit Eau Claire’s website for 2021, and also helped set a record for room tax revenue of $1,743,689.65.

Along with traditional digital advertisements, Visit Eau Claire has been working with travel bloggers and media influencers. Notable bloggers include Endless Adventure who visited the area in 2021 and Squirmy and Grubs who visited last September. Travel blogs on YouTube can reach a national audience, and give an in-depth hands-on view of what Eau Claire has to offer. The Squirmy and Grubs’s video in particular highlighted wheelchair accessible activities in the area.

The push for national advertising has been effective in bringing tourism to the Eau Claire area. The Chainsaw Championship this last year was heavily marketed outside of the Eau Claire area and saw a 24% increase in attendance. Many attendees were from out of state and came specifically for the event. Today, Visit Eau Claire is advertising within an 8-10 hour driving radius. Currently, the Visit Eau Claire website is on pace to finish the year with 1.2 million unique visitors and has already seen 806,638 users, a 304% increase from 2019. 

Increases in tourism help to raise revenue from room taxes, which can help finance digital marketing campaigns. Visit Eau Claire collects room tax from the municipalities including Altoona, Eau Claire, Oasio, and Wheaton. In 2019, the revenue from Room Tax was $1,658,932.45, this number has already been surpassed, as the room tax revenue for 2022 was $1,694,311 as of September. 

Anderson ended the presentation by talking about the connection between tourism and the workforce. Anderson stated that tourism can also help solve some of the problems of workforce development attracting people. Tourism, along with UWEC, allows people to try the area out and learn if it would be a good fit for them. When people come to visit Eau Claire, they also get a chance to learn about what the city offers for day to day life if they move. 

Posted by Emily Johnston Governmental Affairs Intern

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