11/14/2017 7:27:00 AM JEM grant boosts Oneida County Tourism Council rebranding project
kayla breese/River News
Pictured, from left, are event program coordinator at the Rhinelander Area Chamber of Commerce Lauren Sackett, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Tourism Stephanie Klett, executive director of the Minocqua Area Chamber of Commerce and president of the Oneida County Tourism Council Krystal Westfahl, executive director of the Rhinelander Area Chamber of Commerce Maggie Steffen, and Amanda Lukas, RACC tourism and membership coordinator.
By Kayla Breese River News Feature Writer
The Oneida County Tourism Council (OCTC) received a $39,550 Joint Effort Marketing (JEM) grant last Tuesday from the Wisconsin Department of Tourism.
The council, which is comprised of eight communities in Oneida County, will use the funds to conduct seasonal surveys at key high-traffic locations and times to better understand what drives the current travel market and the brand perceptions of the region, according to a press release announcing the grant. Survey results will help gauge travelers' brand perceptions of Oneida County, which will shape how the destination can rebrand and market itself to future visitors.
"We are excited to support the Oneida County Tourism Council in their efforts to create a new branding strategy using surveys that comes directly from visitors," tourism secretary Stephanie Klett said, who was on hand for the announcement at the Rhinelander Area Chamber of Commerce. "We know that successful marketing campaigns are based on research. This JEM grant will help these eight communities take their first steps toward a cohesive plan to attract more travelers to the area."
Klett said the JEM grant committee was impressed with Oneida County's application.
"The committee loved a couple things about the application. One, that eight communities are working together, because visitors, they don't see the city and town lines, so whenever a community and a county is willing to work together, that just speaks really well of the place itself, and so that was a really big factor in the application," Klett said. "The other thing is they are using real people coming into the area to get their thoughts on this area."
A grant committee consisting of five tourism industry professionals from all corners of the state reviewed applications, Klett said.
With 72 counties and 11 sovereign nations applying, it is quite competitive, she added.
"Getting a JEM grant means you have a great idea and you're showing us that you're going to have a great follow through," she said.
Krystal Westfahl, executive director of the Minocqua Area Chamber of Commerce and president of the Oneida County Tourism Council, was pleased to receive the grant.
"I think this grant is going to do wonders for our county as well as our individual chambers when we get this information back," she said. "The grant itself is really going to be just a huge asset to our already limited budget so we'll match this $39,550 we got from the state, we will be also giving this money in to match that."
Westfahl said the grant is important to the OCTC and the individual chambers as they work to better brand themselves. She is also looking forward to visitor feedback.
"It's really trying to understand at length what it is they are looking for," Westfahl explained. "As I've said before, we as locals may promote the woods and the waters because we think that's the most important thing, but they might say 'Oneida County has some really great supper clubs and their old fashioneds are the best.'"
According to a Department of Tourism press release, "it is estimated that each of the eight participating communities will see an average of 200 new travelers as a result of the campaign, generating an estimated $334,400 in visitor spending in the area."
In 2011 the Wisconsin Department of Tourism got away from slogans and rebranded itself. Since then revenue is up 35 percent.
"So this last year we had $20
billion of travel expenditures here in the state of Wisconsin," Klett said. "So people really, when a brand rings true, they're drawn to it."
"Tourism is a $20 billion industry in Wisconsin that employs 193,000 people," the release states. "Since 2010 the travel and hospitality industry added 21,500 jobs, a 12.4 percent increase. Visitors created $1.5 billion in local and state revenue, and in 2016 business sales in Oneida County totaled $294.3 million, which supported 2,173 jobs and $21.8 million in local and state taxes."
"It's a huge economic force but a lot of times, because we are in the fun business, we can be looked at as a little frivolous, and it couldn't be further from the truth," Klett said. "This is about full-time jobs, it's about small businesses because 60 percent of tourism businesses in Wisconsin are small businesses."
Kayla Breese may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.