Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:39 pm
As we work to define our image and market Milwaukee as a desirable, yes, even world-class tourism destination, we must be perceived in the minds of the traveling public as a "distinctive" destination.
In fact, in the words of Duane Knapp, author and president of BrandStrategy, Inc., "being perceived as distinctive is a requirement, not an option."
That’s why Visit Milwaukee, with the assistance of Knapp, and working closely with our Milwaukee area tourism and hospitality partners worked to develop a "brand promise." That promise describes the attributes we believe we possess and need to embody if we’re going to become a more successful destination and bring greater economic return to the region.
In two brainstorming sessions conducted late last year with members of our tourism and hospitality community, including the Visit Milwaukee board, we came to a consensus on a brand promise that we feel captures the essence of the Milwaukee area visitor experience and highlights our unique attributes that makes us distinct from other competing destinations.
It reads: "Entertainment, celebration and fun are the essence of Milwaukee’s rich cultural experience. This jewel of the Great Lakes is a joy to discover, an easy city with a warm brand of hospitality that will surprise and delight."
Mayor Tom Barrett officially rolled out this promise and stressed the importance of living and delivering it at our annual luncheon meeting earlier this year.
That launch was followed up by two half-day training sessions attended by key stakeholders in our hospitality and tourism industry. The sessions were intended to train the trainer by offering advice on how to deliver the promise throughout the entire hospitality workforce and make sure we’re consistently delivering exceptional customer service to our guests.
It should be emphasized that the brand promise is not a new logo or an advertising tagline. It’s more of an attitude and a call to action to our hospitality community. If we’re not consistently at the top of our game and don’t deliver on the promise, we will not be able to fully capitalize on the attributes that differentiates ourselves from other cities and not reach our potential as a tourism/convention destination.
A visitor’s first impressions of the city, whether it be an interaction with a taxi driver, a hotel front desk clerk, a waiter at a restaurant, or an employee at one of our area attractions are the opportunities that shape and define a visitor’s experience in our city. Generally speaking we do a good job in these areas, but the brand promise provides us with a navigational compass to do even better.
As the tourism marketplace becomes more competitive and cities are investing billions into new infrastructure, it’s essential that we continue to define and evolve as a unique and desirable destination. We have many positive attributes, but those alone are not enough to attract visitors because there are other similar destinations competing for the same piece of the tourism revenue pie. We must work to define ourselves as a destination that truly offers visitors a memorable experience, or we will lose our competitive edge, and visitors and the dollars they pump into the local economy will choose to go elsewhere.
Visitors have choices on where to attend conventions, where to bring their families for leisure trips, and we must ensure that we are perceived as a unique, distinctive and desirable destination. In truly memorable destinations, many visitors return, and even some choose to relocate there.
This brand promise has applicability beyond the borders of Milwaukee. As Milwaukee 7 works to market the region and its many attributes to encourage business development and relocation, the tourism industry can play a strong supporting role in this effort. Relocation decision makers, for example, will be making site visits to southeastern Wisconsin and our hospitality community will play an important role in "selling" our region through the delivery of exceptional customer service.
While one-of-a-kind new tourism attractions such as Discovery World at Pier Wisconsin, the Harley-Davidson Museum and the Potawatomi Bingo Casino expansion will continue to create an exciting new tourism landscape for Milwaukee, it’s still up to the more than 62,000 people who work and support our local tourism industry to live the promise and deliver it on a daily basis.
During the next 18 months Visit Milwaukee, working with the tourism and hospitality community, will continue to roll out the brand promise to the community at large through what’s been called a brand culturalization process. It’s all about living and breathing the promise and getting people to understand and appreciate the significant impact tourism plays in the region.
Doug Neilson is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Visit Milwaukee.