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Wisconsin Department of Tourism makes questionable economic impact claims

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(The Center Square) – Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers touted economic impact numbers related to tourism from the marketing firm Tourism Economics, claiming the state’s tourism generated $25 million in economic impact in 2023.

Economists, however, say the numbers produced by the marketing group do not follow economic study principals and are not reputable. The numbers are used by politicians and state tourism departments to justify spending.

“Viewing what ‘economic impact’ consultants do to be economics is like considering horoscopes to be astronomy,” economist J.C. Bradbury of Georgia’s Kennesaw State University recently wrote. “Newspapers are smart enough to put horoscopes next to the comics and Dear Abby, while economic impact ‘studies’ get banner headlines on the front page.”

Bradbury noted economic impact analysis is not something real economists do and there is a reason that work is not presented at conferences or published in journals.

Economic impact is often claimed surrounding publicly funded sports stadium projects or sporting events.

The annual tourism reports are paid for by state tourism departments and national tourism agencies.

The report claimed there were 113 visits to Wisconsin in 2023 compared to 111 million in 2022.

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