Tourism is core to the economy and livelihood of rural Wisconsin. Tourism introduces people to our state from across state lines and across the world. Communities that showcase and invest in their cultural identity and creative outlets, agritourism, and outdoor recreation can enhance rural prosperity through tourism.
Here is a list of resources available to Wisconsin’s rural communities.
Rural Tourism Resources
Wisconsin Agricultural Tourism Association
Head to Rhinelander in northern Wisconsin, and you’ll find the home of a true Northwoods legend: the Hodag.
The Wisconsin Agricultural Tourism Association is a nonprofit organization for agricultural businesses, fairs and festivals, chambers of commerce, and convention bureaus in Wisconsin. The association promotes the rural lifestyle, fosters partnership opportunities within the agritourism community, and provides tools that encourage sustainable economic growth while raising awareness of Wisconsin agriculture.
Agritourism is a field that is growing in popularity as producers try to diversify and increase profits. A USDA website offers resources to help those interested in starting or growing a business that combines agriculture and tourism, with guidance that includes management, marketing, finances, and recordkeeping.
NATOW : Native American Tourism of Wisconsin
NATOW’s mission is to promote tribal tourism and economic development while highlighting the beauty, diversity, and cultural dynamism of the 11 federally recognized tribes of Wisconsin.
The Wisconsin Department of Tourism’s website promotes Wisconsin as a prime travel destination. It highlights festivals, special events, farmers markets, and concerts as well as lodging, dining, and noteworthy sights throughout the state.
Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR)
ORR helps rural communities build sustainable and thriving recreation economies through its Rural Economic Development Toolkit, Implementation Grants, and other partnerships with rural practitioners around the country. ORR also helped designate millions of dollars in new funding from the Economic Development Administration to go toward recreation infrastructure nationwide.
Wisconsin Outdoor Recreation Inventory
The Wisconsin Outdoor Recreation Inventory, launched in June 2023, is a comprehensive catalog of outdoor recreation sites and activities across the state. The project’s Wisconsin Explorer Tool lets the public conduct a detailed search for activities such as skiing, snowmobiling, fishing, hiking, and swimming and download information on locations and events.
Wisconsin Bike Fed
The Bike Fed is a nonprofit that represents the biking community across Wisconsin and works to move biking forward through education, legislation, and involvement. The Bike Fed advocates for bike safety through the creation of bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, and it publicizes biking events throughout the state.
Department of Tourism Regional Specialists
As the eyes and ears of the tourism industry, Travel Wisconsin’s regional tourism specialists are your gateway to our organization. Whether you want to share great news or take advantage of their exemplary tourism knowledge, they are just a phone call or email away. They’ll even come to you!
Wisconsin Historical Society
The Wisconsin Historical Society collects and preserves artifacts and information about the state’s history and culture. Through the State Historic Preservation Office, the organization also works with communities to help preserve historic buildings and create historic districts.
Tourism Information Center Grant
This grant is open to nonprofit tourism organizations, municipalities, or Native American tribes that operate a regional tourist information center. Applications due: Jan. 1 and July 1
Joint Effort Marketing Grant
The grant reimburses Wisconsin nonprofit organizations for qualified promotional costs. Applications due: Feb. 1, April 1, Aug. 1, and Nov. 1
Wisconsin Governor’s Conference on Tourism
The Wisconsin Governor’s Conference on Tourism is one of the nation’s largest state tourism conferences, offering education and networking to boost Wisconsin’s tourism industry. The annual conference brings together destination marketing organizations, tourism attractions, and vendors to showcase cutting-edge research, trends, and tools. Each year, the conference also celebrates the Governor’s Tourism Award winners and nominees. The 2024 conference will be held March 10-12 in Lake Geneva.