Celebrating the grand re-opening at a significant information center and rest stop.
The Beloit Welcome Center has been closed since 2009 due to budget cuts, but Wisconsin Tourism Secretary Stephanie Klett says the facilities are a necessary component in successfully promoting tourism. Granted, people use online resources for information, she says, “but we need welcome centers that really, truly welcome and offer hospitality to visitors. They provide maps, guidance, suggestions, literature.”
Klett says the site in Beloit on Interstate 90 is the most popular welcome center in Wisconsin, as almost 40 percent of tourists entering the state stop at this location.
Klett says Governor Walker wants to make Wisconsin tourism competitive with neighboring states. “Tourism has a return on investment of 7-1 … so what the Tourism Department learned years ago when (the marketing budget) was cut by a few million dollars, tourism lost over $1 billion in travel expenditures. Right now for Wisconsin to remain competitive, we have to increase our budget.”
Illinois had spent $48 million on annual tourism promotion; Michigan spent $30 million, while Wisconsin reduced its spending to $9.9 million. Walker’s budget increases the state tourism marketing dollars to nearly $14 million.
Klett says the Beloit Welcome Center is able to operate through a cooperative effort between the Departments of Tourism, Transportation, and Visit Beloit. Also, she hopes to involve the private sector, citing the example of Florida, whose visitors get a shot of orange juice with a map. Klett says Wisconsin could work with cranberry growers or artisan cheesemakers.
Beloit’s Welcome Center is number one in the state, followed by the center in Kenosha, and then La Crosse