Wisconsin Offers New Features on Tourism Web Site

Planning to visit one of Wisconsin`s scenic spots? Take a trip on the Internet first before packing the kids and dog in the car and zooming off.
The Wisconsin Department of Tourism this week unveiled its revamped Web site that now offers visitors an online travel planner as well as other bells and whistles, such as e-mail updates and postcards that can be sent to family and friends through cyberspace.
Travelers can print out a travel planner by choosing which part of the state they want to visit and when. Thinking about visiting historic sites in southern Wisconsin? No problem, the Web site shows you a list of museums and other destinations ranging from House on the Rock and the first state Capitol in Belmont to the Mount Horeb Mustard Museum and the Hoard Historical Museum and National Dairy Shrine in Fort Atkinson.
Want to go golfing in western Wisconsin, bicycling in Door County or learn where flower shows will be held in the summer? You can find that out. Maybe you`ve got a long weekend in September and want to find out what`s happening on those days? You can do that, too.
Tourists can find out phone numbers, addresses, e-mail addresses and Web sites for each attraction. Sometimes it`s a matter of clicking from the state tourism site onto a Web site, say for the House of Rock, to go to the attraction`s home page.
Once you`ve figured out where and when to go, then click on accommodations to find a place to stay. Not available yet are maps and driving directions, but tourism officials are hoping that feature will be added to the site in a month. The state Department of Tourism has offered a Web site since 1996.
“With the advancement of information technology, you`re going to have to revisit everything you do on a regular basis,” said Tourism Secretary Richard “Moose” Speros in explaining the decision to update the site.
The travel planner and other improvements were added after focus groups said they wanted the site to help them plan their vacations. “They`re looking for one-stop shopping,” Speros said.
Frequent visitors to the site will notice a change in the number of listings for accommodations and attractions. There are now more than 7,500 listings compared with 2,000 before, said Julia Hertel, technology director for the Tourism Department.
“We have some fun components to it that we didn`t have before,” Hertel said. “You can send a postcard to friends and family. There`s information about cool spots for kids. You can sign up for e-mail newsletters.”
Popular services such as ordering tourism publications are still part of the Web site. Internet visitors order an average of 5,000 publications each month, said Hertel.
While many people plan their vacations weeks or months in advance, some decide at the spur of the moment to bolt for Wisconsin`s attractions. The new trip planner will allow them to figure out a travel game plan quickly.
“On Friday afternoon they see they have the time to go up north and they want to plan very quickly,” Hertel said. “We`re finding that vacation planning time is getting shorter. More people want customized travel information. They want it targeted for their tastes and interests.”