School of the Arts has large financial impact on Northwoods
When UW-Madison School of the Arts in Rhinelander opens for business Sunday, July 22, some 300 students, faculty and artists will descend on the Hodag city, a fact not lost on Rhinelander Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Lara Reed.
“We began receiving inquiries for resorts and motels in April,” she said. “A large number of our resorts rely on School of the Arts to fill them up for a week, and we have many resorts that are filled solely with School of the Arts people.”
Among Rhinelander attractions, School of the Arts is one of two that encompass an entire week, the other being Hodag Country Fest. While Country Fest brings in a significantly larger number of people, School of the Arts visitors bring in, per capita, more spending.
“We estimate the School of the Arts visitors bring in approximately $150 per person per day for the local economy,” Reed said, “and that is because a large number who attend School of the Arts stay in local resorts or motels, eat at local restaurants and patronize local businesses. With Country Fest many of the visitors stay out on the Country Fest grounds and do not need to spend as much locally as those who stay in town.”
“We still estimate that each person who comes to Country Fest will spend about $85 per day locally. That makes the School of the Arts crowd our most profitable attraction.”
“I think the School of the Arts in Rhinelander is important,” Reed said, “because it brings in a different crowd of people. We have a growing art community, and there seems to be a growing interest in the arts in Rhinelander.”
“The group of students and the group of people that comes to Rhinelander for the School of the Arts gives us the opportunity to capture a visitor who will come back to Rhinelander multiple times. When people think of the arts, I don’t think they think of Rhinelander all of the time. Having an event that has been running in the same location for nearly 50 years brings a visitor to the area that we might not be able to capture any other way.”
Placing School of the Arts on the Rhinelander calendar in July is significant, Reed said. “Having a week-long event at this time, when our weather is at its peak, allows us to show our visitors that we have a lot of things going on. If we were to bring these people up to the Northwoods in February, it would be a nice economic boost, but it would probably not have the appeal of making visitors want to come back.
“The timing really plays on the idea that we are trying to get you interested in the Northwoods. We’ve got this great week-long activity for you, but we want you to come back.”
Chamber personnel field inquiries and help with lodging reservations, but the Chamber does much more to promote School of the Arts in Rhinelander.
“We get a lot of requests for additional area information,” Reed said. “People will say that they are coming up for the School of the Arts and then ask what else there is for them to do. What other attractions can they visit?”
“We try to work together with the School of the Arts to promote it as best we can-it is mentioned in our newsletter, on our website, in our area guide, and we have also supported the moving displays that were put up around town. In our 2012 area guide we used some of the photos taken by School of the Arts students in their photo classes.”
Local merchants take advantage of the opportunity to reach new customers during the week. “They know that there will be this large group of people around,” Reed said.
“Our local merchants realize the importance of having some extra people in town and try to give them incentives to at least walk through their doors and see what is offered.”
“Overall, the feedback from the business community and the city is positive. This is one of those events for which to local people do not have to do a whole lot of work to reap a benefit. (School of the Arts people) are looking for something to do while they are here; they are looking for something to do every evening, and so I think this group is more involved in the local economy.”
“The huge thing about having the School of the Arts here is that we are a vacation and resort destination,” Reed said. “If you turn your School of the Arts experience into a vacation, you can enjoy some of those other things that we love about the Northwoods.”
Registration is now open for the 2012 School of the Arts at Rhinelander taht takes place July 22-27. For more information, visit continuingstudies.wisc.edu/lsa/soa/index.html.