WISCONSIN DELLS, Wis. (SPECTRUM NEWS) — The Wisconsin Dells brings in more than $1.2 billion dollars annually in visitor spending according to the Wisconsin Dells Visitor and Convention Bureau.
It's unclear how much of a decrease there will be in 2020 from the pandemic, but people in town said things were slow to pick back up for visitors after the initial Coronavirus shut downs in the spring.
“Slow start, but we're getting audiences, people are coming,” said Rick Wilcox, owner and magician of Rick Wilcox Magic Theater in the Wisconsin Dells.
The Theater didn't start hosting shows until July 1. They said now people are visiting. Wilcox and his wife, Susan, have operated the theater for more than two decades. 2020 has been the most challenging year.
“This has really been the toughest year, because there's just less people in town,” Susan Wilcox said. “People are concerned about safety and they want to be outside and they're not sure if they want to travel, but slowly we're seeing more people.”
Businesses are staying optimistic. Kevin Ricks owns Concept Attractions — a company that operates Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum, Wizard Quest and several other Dells businesses. He is moving forward with plans to build and expand more parts of the company, even with a little worry over the pandemic's economic impact.
“I'd be lying if I said it doesn't give me some concern, but I think if I stay focused on growing and staying optimistic that helps fight the negative feeling and the concern,” Ricks said.
Visitors are feeling more and more confident coming to the Dells too.
“I think at first I didn't want to come down, like when it first broke out, but now we're more comfortable because it's going to spread, it's going to happen anyway,” said Emily Rasmussen, a visitor from La Crosse.
The Wisconsin Dells Visitor and Convention Center declined to be interviewed about the economic impacts of the pandemic. So did Visit Wisconsin, and the Wisconsin Dells City Treasurer.
Sauk County — which houses part of the Dells — has seen an increase of cases the past three weeks.
“We're in sort of a resurgence of COVID in Sauk County,” said Tim Lawther, the county's health officer.
In the last 21 days the county has had more COVID cases than the entirety of the pandemic. Lawther said the health department is looking into reasons. He said they haven't seen any huge outbreaks in resorts.
Between the Dells and popular outdoor recreation sites in the county, like Devil's Lake State Park, Sauk County sees a lot of visitors. Lawther said it's tough to know if people are bringing in the virus and leaving because that relies on test results in different parts of Wisconsin or out of state.
“We would hope that people who are coming to visit would have the respect for the locations that they're visiting and the people who live here to do that,” Lawther said.
Lawther said he asks people visiting to do the same thing as people who live in the county: Wash hands, wear masks, socially distance and stay out of crowds if they can.