Tourism & the Visitor Economy: The Visitor Economy Can Help Us All


by JULIE GILBERT, President and CEO, Destination Door County

A new initiative called the Community Investment Fund that we launched recently is now a reality. 

Earlier this month, we hosted several information sessions that provided details about how local units of government and 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(6) organizations can apply for funding assistance for projects that fit specific criteria. It was great to see the interest and excitement as we shared details of this new program. (Anyone who was unable to attend one of the sessions can find information and online application materials at CommunityInvestmentFund.org.)

As we continue to evolve into a Community Shared Values organization that balances sustainability for our businesses, organizations and environment, Destination Door County’s board of directors recognized that it was essential to better support our municipalities and other organizations because of the increased demands on local tourism infrastructure.

A task force was formed in the summer of 2022 that included leaders from Destination Door County’s board of directors and the Door County Tourism Zone Commission, and others in the community. With the Door County Community Foundation’s help and facilitation, the Community Investment Fund was created. 

This new effort is a natural evolution of Destination Door County’s work. Using a portion of the room-tax dollars paid by visitors, the Community Investment Fund will offer grants to projects that benefit our visitors while they are here, as well as improve the quality of life for those who live and work in Door County.  

Wisconsin lodging tax statute requires that we use room-tax dollars in ways that benefit visitors, so that must be a requirement of any application to the Community Investment Fund. However, to earn a grant from the fund, a project must also demonstrate how it will meaningfully improve the quality of life for residents of Door County.

Initial priorities of the program include:

• Creative ideas that have a meaningful impact on the people who live and work in Door County

• Impact that crosses municipal boundaries

• Encourages collaboration

• Leverages additional resources

• Residents experience the positive impact of tourism

The more of these priorities that an application addresses, the more likely it is that a project will receive a grant.

Potential project examples could include things such as public-park improvements or expansions, new public hiking or biking trails, public-beach restoration projects, new public-restroom facilities and other projects that would enhance the Door County experience for everyone.

We are excited to see projects that are strategic, have long-term impact, will benefit many, cross municipal boundaries and are good for both visitors and residents.

Door County’s visitor economy benefits us and makes life better for our residents. When people visit Door County, they spend money here, which creates jobs for our families. That spending also generates incremental tax dollars and provides economic opportunities for residents. And, visitors support increased amenities that enhance our quality of life. 

We are all looking forward to seeing the positive impact that the Community Investment Fund will have on Door County and on every person who calls it home.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at [email protected]. I look forward to hearing your thoughts and suggestions to help us continue growing in a positive direction. 

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