STURGEON BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – Tourism is big money for Door County during the summer months and there is some promising news we have not seen over the last two years because of the pandemic.

“This time of year everyone is getting ready to open their doors, if they haven’t already,” said Jon Jarosh, Director of Communications for Destination Door County.

That means a lot of seasonal summer workers are about to be crisscrossing much of the county, many of them will be on J1 Visas — international students who come to the U.S as part of a work-exchange program.

“We’ve got 421 applicants this year, people that have applied, to be a part of the program this year,” said Jarosh.

That is up considerably from 2021 when there were just 155. You can blame it on COVID-19 that put a halt on people traveling abroad.

“About 25-percent of those have already received their Visa, so that’s very encouraging news for us,” added Jarosh. “We should start to see them roll in sometime in the middle or end of next month (May.)”

Statewide, people here on J1 Visas account for about 3,000 jobs during the summer months. It’s welcome help to businesses like Sonny’s in downtown Sturgeon Bay.

“We do a lot of business,” said General Manager Melissa Martinez. “We have live bands, deliveries going out the door, catering going out the door.”

That summer help is a much needed boost.

“A lot of times it’s difficult to find local employees willing to put in the hours and the work that we need,” Martinez said. “This just gives us another opportunity to bring in outside help just to get us through this really busy season.”

In fact, they end up doing work that might not otherwise be possible to keep the business running.

“We have the ability to hire one, two, three, four — even eight J1’s and that fulfills the need we have,” she added.

In turn, helping put a spotlight on Door County and the rest of Wisconsin.

“The program itself is great to help us showcase our culture to these students from 200 countries around the world,” said Jarosh.

Destination Door County predicts that by 2023, J1 Visa applications will return to pre-pandemic levels, which averages around 500 applicants during the summer months.

You can check out all the summer activities planned, and what else there is to do in Door County, on the group’s website.