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Originally published Thursday, July 1, 2010 at 2:32 PM

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Wine and the outdoors lure visitors to Chelan

A Chelan County tourist survey finds visitors impressed with the county's outdoors recreation and wineries.

The Wenatchee World

Most visitors come to Chelan County as a vacation getaway, but the variety of outdoor activities and wineries make the biggest impression on them while they're here.

So concludes the first survey in a decade of Chelan County tourists: why they come, what they do, where they stay and what they like.

The Port of Chelan County released select results of the survey recently. Some 11,600 people responded to the survey either online or via one of about two dozen computerized "black survey boxes" placed in well-traveled areas around the county.

The survey period was June 2009 through April 2010.

Results show that 56 percent of survey respondents said they were most impressed with the county's options for recreation, and 35 percent pointed to the country's wineries.

"It's not that we didn't know wine was of growing interest in the area," said Roger Clute, executive director of the Wenatchee Valley Convention & Visitors Bureau, on Monday. "The survey points out that the potential is enormous. We might be in the same place Walla Walla was 10 years ago."

The survey says wine tourists:

• Have an average income of $92,945, compared to $76,930 for regular visitors.

• Visit three or more wineries per trip and spend an average of $100 on wine per visit.

• Travel in larger groups and spend an average of about four nights in the county.

• Identified Chelan as the place they'd most likely visit for wine, followed by Leavenworth.

Wenatchee and the visitor's bureau spend about $200,000 annually to promote the Wenatchee Valley.

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This pales in comparison with the country's tourism meccas of Leavenworth and Lake Chelan.

Leavenworth Mayor Rob Eaton said the Bavarian-themed town spends more than $860,000 per year on advertising to lure visitors.

Leavenworth topped the survey list of the county's most-visited attractions.

Mike Steele, executive director of the Lake Chelan Chamber of Commerce, says that comes as no surprise, since Leavenworth is directly in the path of eastward-bound Seattle-area visitors, who make up 61 percent of respondents.

The lakeside town was the county's second-most visited destination. He estimates Chelan spends between $600,000 and $800,000 annually on promotion.

"We felt that our numbers, comparatively, were fantastic," Steele said. "Lake Chelan is off the beaten path, and people are still making a point to visit."

The survey shows that about 81 percent of visitors to Chelan County come from within Washington and 82 percent travel by car.

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