MANITOWOC (NBC 26) — For the lakeshore community of Manitowoc, tourism plays a critical role in the city's economy.
"Last year over $720,000 was brought in in room tax from folks staying in our community, the best year we've had. It's hundreds of thousands of dollars every year, thousands of jobs for people in Manitowoc," said Courtney Hansen, the city's director of tourism.
For the city's local businesses, summer is peak tourism season. The summer months are the most profitable of the year, due to attractions like the S.S Badger Carferry that brings a maximum of 600 people in from Ludington, Michigan twice a day in the summer.
“The S.S Badger is absolutely fantastic, we know right away at 12:20 and at 3:20 we’re going to get pushes from people coming off and going back on it,” said Brock Weyer, the owner of Courthouse Pub.
Weyer says that every summer, his restaurant could double or even triple in capacity with outdoor seating. Every year around this time, he says he's preparing for a wave of business.
"It's just planning ahead, making sure we're fully staffed, making sure we have all the equipment to handle the influx of groups and mostly just beautifying the outside to draw in as much people as we can," Weyer said.
This summer, the city's department of tourism is re-branding to promote local businesses like Weyer's. The department is re-branding as Visit Manitowoc, and will soon have a new visitor information center inside the ferry's ticket office to showcase the city's restaurants, hotels, museums, and more. The department is also working with the marketing company Simpleview to develop a website that will showcase the attractions the city has to offer.
“All of our restaurants, our stores, will be able to insert their data and the visitors can kind of filter it if they’re looking for farm to table or if they’re looking for a burger,” Hansen said.
For the city’s restaurants, that advertising can go a long way to bring in customers.
"Anytime you get anybody off the Badger as well as anyone else coming in to town, the more knowledge they have of what’s available to them is obviously beneficial to us,” said Steve Diederichs, the owner of the Pizza Garden in Manitowoc.
“It’s huge, especially since advertising dollars are so thin," Weyer said. "The city is helping us out with that so we can spend more money internally."