By Chad Pelishek, Director of Planning and Development & Visit Sheboygan Board Chair
In early 2017, Visit Sheboygan, Inc. was formed to provide tourism promotion and tourism development services for the City of Sheboygan, Town of Sheboygan, and Town of Wilson. Prior to 2017, tourism and visitor experience services were provided through a contract to the Sheboygan County Chamber of Commerce. A change in state law forced the creation of the Sheboygan Area Room Tax Commission to be formed to collect room taxes (room tax is a tax that guests at a hotel have to pay in order to stay there) and provide them to a tourism entity (Visit Sheboygan) to use to encourage additional tourists to come to the Sheboygan area.
In late 2017, the Visit Sheboygan board of directors decided to expand into an untapped market of encouraging group tours to consider Sheboygan as destination. Sheboygan has great quality of life amenities; therefore, it makes a lot of sense to market to group tour companies and to encourage additional visitors to come and experience Sheboygan.
How do group tours help the local economy? Some group tours are day trips – meaning they come from a location that is within short proximity to Sheboygan, spend the day here exploring, and go home at the end of the day. Some group tours are multiple days that include having the travelers spend nights in local hotels. These hotel stays create room taxes that can then be reinvested to encourage other tourists to visit Sheboygan.
A new type of group tour that is growing in popularity is mystery vacations. Travelers pay a flat fee with their local group tour operator, receive a few clandestine hints, show up on the scheduled day of departure and then learn – that very same day – where they’ll be vacationing for the next few days. It’s a neat way for travelers to experience locations that they may have not chosen on their own otherwise.
Visit Sheboygan staff are available to help with scheduling group tours. Sample itineraries are provided on visitsheboygan.com and include tours such as A Taste of History (Bratwurst), Holiday Traditions, Brews to Cruise, Culinary Delights, Make a Difference Mystery Tour, Planes Trains & Automobiles, Sheboygan Highlights Tour, and Girlfriends Getaway.
As this market for group tours grows, local residents will see more coach buses in our community and more in our downtown district. A comment was received from of the guests of a recent group tour that stated, “Thank you for your hospitality and the bag of goodies. The group enjoyed the salt water taffy and other candies. Next visit will include the Victorian Chocolate Shop. We had a wonderful day in Sheboygan. The Black Pig gets an A+++ for good food and excellent service. It was a perfect day to visit the Bookworm Gardens and we wrapped it all up with ice cream!”
These are the experiences that Visit Sheboygan hoped to accomplish with this new venture. Since tourism is Sheboygan’s second largest business cluster, we would ask that all residents welcome them to our community and our local businesses to experience what Sheboygan has to offer whether it be in winter or in summer.