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11/6/2012 6:15:00 AM
'Building relationships' key to growth for Vilas County tourism
Tourism official says regional counties, chambers all work as a team to market state's Northwoods

It takes a team to continue to improve efforts to market Vilas County and other counties in Wisconsin’s Northwoods

And it’s the team effort that continues to attract new visitors and keep them coming back.

That’s according to Cindy Burzinski, Vilas County’s Tourism and Publicity director. Burzinski recently presented her 2011 annual report to county officials, once again showing the impact of tourism on the economy of Vilas County and the Northwoods.

“We’ve definitely been able to accomplish what we have over the last several years because of the relationships and cooperation we’ve fostered and built,” Burzinski said. 

The start in 2011 of a five-county branding initiative is just one example of counties and chambers working together to market “The Northwoods of Wisconsin” as the first concerted regional brand effort in cooperation with Grow North economic development. 

The effort also includes the creation of a joint marketing website called thenorthwoodsofwisconsin.com.

“Vilas, Oneida, Langlade, Lincoln and Forest counties are part of that effort,” Burzinski said. “By working together as a team we are also able to pool our money to be able to do more with the limited dollars we have.”

The website went online in late summer, but according to Burzinski, the site already has 16,593 “friends” as of Nov. 1.


Brand research

Also in early 2011 the members of the five-county group launched a comprehensive brand research initiative. The five-county region had never undertaken a research project of this type and scope before.

“The goal of the research was to uncover information on current visitors to the area as well as travelers who have never been to the region,” Burzinski said. “We also set out to identify the regional brand and whether the brand was consistent for all five counties.”

Other projects that were undertaken together by the five-county region include:

• A strategic planning and branding session;

• The development of a new brand which included the creation of a logo;

• Actively assisting Grow North in utilizing the brand in its own image development and messaging; and

• Creation of a mobile phone app.

The popularity of the TREK the Northwoods Trails booklet and website, has continued to exceed expectations since it was first created in 2005. In July 2011 an additional 10,000 copies of the TREK booklet were printed to reflect updated bicycle trail maps, trail descriptions and other information.

Joe VanDeLaarschot may be reached at jvandelaarschot@lakelandtimes.com.

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