2004 also will be special for local tourism industry

2004 also will be special for local tourism industry

For the past four years, huge tourism events have been handed to the Greater Milwaukee Convention & Visitors Bureau like gifts on a silver platter.
This year’s gift, of course, was the Harley-Davidson 100th Anniversary celebration, which roared through southeastern Wisconsin with an estimated 250,000 visitors last week.
Last year, Milwaukee hosted Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game. In 2001, Miller Park and the Calatrava addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum opened. In 2000, the Potawatomi Bingo Casino opened in the Menomonee River Valley. In 1999, the Midwest Airlines Center opened its second phase of expansion, enabling the city to attract larger conventions.
Such splendid events have helped the region’s tourism economy to grow by 3% in each of the last two years at a time when tourism declined substantially in most urban areas in a down economy across the nation, according to Vanessa Welter, spokeswoman of the Milwaukee bureau.
"The good news is that we haven’t had a decrease. It has been wonderful," Welter said.
To be sure, last week’s Harley celebration was a once-in-a-lifetime gig.
So, will the Hog party leave Milwaukee with a giant tourism hangover in 2004?
No, according to Welter.
In fact, Welter is quick to reel off three events that will have significant impact in southeastern Wisconsin’s tourism industry next year: A major golf tournament, the launching of a new high-speed ferry and the staging of a very popular historical museum exhibit.
The 2004 PGA Championship tournament to be held at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Aug. 9-15, already has sold out its daily passes for the Thursday, Friday and Sunday rounds.
Welter expects the golf major event’s impact to stretch south to Milwaukee, because the Kohler area will not be able accommodate lodging for the throngs of people. Further, golf fans will be driving through Milwaukee or flying into Milwaukee to get to the tournament.
For a glimpse of the impact the event will have in 2004, one need only look to this year’s PGA Championship, which took place in August in Rochester, N.Y.
The event drew about 50,000 people to the Rochester region, according to Patti Donoghue, spokeswoman for the Greater Rochester Visitors Association.
Nearly all of the region’s 6,500 hotel rooms were booked for the week, and Donoghue said she had heard "horror stories" of normally affordable rooms in chain hotels going for about $400 per night.
About 350 private jets flew into Rochester for the tournament, she said.
"I can tell you that the impact has been phenomenal. It was a wonderful, wonderful opportunity for the area, to be seen on national television and have people come to Rochester who otherwise never would have," Donoghue said.
However, Donoghue warned that the clientele that will flock to southeastern Wisconsin to see the PGA Championship will be much different in personality, purpose and spending habits than the Harley crowd that invaded Milwaukee last week.
"They won’t be partying all night and spending all kinds of money. These people were here to see the golfers. They eat in the restaurants and sleep in the hotels, but it’s a long day. It’s different," Donoghue said.
In addition to the golf tournament, southeastern Wisconsin’s tourism industry also will receive a boost from the Lake Express high-speed ferry. Beginning next June, the Lake Express will have a capacity to carry about 250 passengers and 46 vehicles per trip across Lake Michigan between Milwaukee and Muskegon, Mich., in just two hours and 20 minutes.
"That is going to happen. It’s a done deal. It’s going to open up the whole Michigan market to us," Welter said.
Another significant event for the local tourism industry in 2004 will be the staging of "The Quest for Immortality: Treasures of Ancient Egypt," an exhibit that will begin in April at the Milwaukee Public Museum.
The exhibit will feature 115 objects from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, the Luxor Museum (Egypt) and archeological sites of Tabis and Deir el-Bahari, many of which have never been on public display or outside of Egypt.
The Milwaukee Public Museum has been named the sole Midwest North American venue to host the world-class exhibition.
"Chicago was not able to get this, and we were. It’s huge," Welter said.
Looking ahead to 2005, the region’s tourism business still looks strong, Welter said, as Milwaukee will host the national conventions for the NAACP and the US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
Meanwhile, projects such as the Milwaukee Public Market and the Pier Wisconsin center are on the horizon, Welter said.
"It just keeps coming. We’re thrilled. This city just keeps breaking through," Welter said.

Sept. 5, 2003 Small Business Times, Milwaukee

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