OSHKOSH Wis. — Wisconsin’s tourism industry posted a record $23.7 billion in 2022, according to the Wisconsin Department of Tourism.

This has fueled a significant amount of that growth was Winnebago County. The county contributed $522 million.

What You Need To Know

  • Wisconsin's tourism industry posted a record $23.7 billion in 2022

  • Winnebago County contributed $522 million to that

  • In 2022, there were 111.1 million visits in Wisconsin, which was up 8.8 million visits, or 8.7%, over the previous yea

  • EAA AirVenture generated over $170 million for Oshkosh

Executive Director of the Oshkosh Convention and Visitor’s Bureau Amy Albright said the county’s largest city, Oshkosh, is having a major impact on tourism while undergoing a turnaround. She said summer is energizing the city’s progress, and the downtown is where event-goers are spending millions of dollars.

“When people are coming to town, they’re bringing their pocketbooks and they’re ready to eat and drink, they need a place to sleep,” Albright said. “They need gas for their cars, they need groceries, they need all of the things, so we really see a huge economic impact from people that come to our town.”

She said Oshkosh is home to many events that generated revenue for the area. That included Waterfest, Jazzfest and the biggest of them all, EAA AirVenture.

“The economic impact of that is estimated to be around $170 million,” Albright said.

In 2020, Oshkosh’s Rock USA and Country USA festivals went bankrupt, and that left the city with a several-million-dollar void.

Albright said that revenue is returning and plans are now in the works to bring in another event.

“We are hearing that there’s something coming back next year,” Albright said. “So, look for 2024 for some kind of music festival, on the grounds out there.”

She said Oshkosh attracts these festivals because it’s along the water.

“People that come here to boat into sail into jet ski and do all of the things on the water whether that’s waterfront dining,” Albright said.

That’s good news for Kris Beckett. Beckett owns Beckett’s Restaurant, a fine-dining restaurant in downtown Oshkosh.

“My wife and I love Oshkosh,” Beckett said. “It’s a big city, but kind of a little city field and there’s lots going on.”

He said the biggest attraction for his business is the Fox River.

“We have lots of outdoor seating along the river and there are lots of big events during the summer,” he said. “There’s always something going on here.”

He said summers at his restaurant are active, but it’s the city’s year-round event schedule that keeps his business buzzing.

“We tend to stay just as busy,” he said. “We just have fewer seats, so the volume stays the same, just less people because we have less place for them to sit down.”

That’s something that Albright likes to hear.

“We want people to come here, enjoy everything that Oshkosh has to offer,” Albright said.

She said Oshkosh shows no signs of slowing down, especially after its major events broke attendance records this summer. With roughly a million visitors looking to spend their money downtown, that’s helping to revitalize the city.

It’s a trend Albright sees continuing in the future.