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Editorial: Fun turns serious in a good way

Tourism is big business in Wisconsin and getting bigger. State Tourism Secretary Stephanie Klett's statement "When you're having fun, we're having fun" couldn't be more appropriate for local communities. Simply witness the plethora of summer festivals and resulting happy faces.

The concept is goes beyond a good time, of course, because it's good business: When people have fun, they stay longer, they play harder and they come back.

Consider that the millions of people who traveled around and through Wisconsin last year put $20.6 billion into the state's economy and supported 195,255 jobs. Tourism activity is up more than $5.8 billion, a nearly 40 percent increase from $14.8 billion in 2011. The Department of Tourism also reports over that this seven-year period tourism generated nearly $10 billion in state and local taxes.

That's good news. We agree with Klett when she says tourism also creates something that can't be quantified — a positive impression.

She refers to "The Halo Effect." Travelers who have visited Wisconsin in the past two years rate the state much higher in attributes such as a good place to live, to start a business, to attend college or to purchase a retirement home than those who have not visited the state.

That is critical for economic development and retaining quality workers. Children who have the time of their life at a local summer festival may find themselves attracted to the University of Wisconsin-River Falls or one of the area's top technical and two-year colleges when they consider post-secondary options.

So kudos to the volunteers who put together events such as RiverFest, Hot Air Affair, Booster Days, North Hudson Pepper Fest and many more. You're doing more for your community than you know.

And you thought it simply was all about a fun summer outing.