Gas prices, milder winters threaten tourism in the Northwoods - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Gas prices, milder winters threaten tourism in the Northwoods

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MINOCQUA (WAOW)-- Business owners told Newsline 9 rising gas prices are just one of many factors taking a toll on tourism in the Northwoods. Many said they've had to make adjustments and offer incentives to bring people to the area.

"Tourism is everything up here," said Ed Kanauer who manages a store in downtown Minocqua. It's a sentiment echoed by many in the Northwoods.

Michael Pitzo has been co-owner of the Polecat and Lace restaurant for more than 30 years. He said a slow economy mixed with rising gas prices and milder winters have made it hard to break even. "Not that you lose them as customers, but they just don't come as often," he said.

That's why he offers incentives to get people in the door. "You try and do specials that are more affordable for customers."

And that's not all. City officials said the overall economy is changing the way people vacation. 

"Sometimes people shift how they spend their money. Maybe they will shorten their trip and they won't stay as long," said Executive Director of the Minocqua Area Chamber of Commerce Kim Baltus.

"High fuel prices will definitely take a toll on people coming up here," said Kanauer.

Those higher prices at the pump and a slower economy have also reached Northwoods hotels.

"We always have deals going, always have," said Concord Inn owner Robert Michelson. He said the hotel offers deals to attract guests.

But there is some good news. Some business owners say higher gas prices can actually boost business. "They'll come here rather than travel further west or whatever because of the gas prices," said Michelson.

But make no mistake, high gas prices are an obstacle and many hope those prices go down so cities built on tourism can stay that way. 

"We'd like them to stay overnight and we want them to come back," said Baltus.

Online Reporter: Bonnie Shelton

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