Last year at this time, we were optimistic that the hospitality and tourism industry would awake from the recessionary doldrums of 2009 and begin to stage a comeback. We predicted that convention business for 2010 could grow by almost 50 percent over 2009. With the books closed on 2010, we're thrilled to report that the hospitality industry is indeed making a comeback, and convention business actually increased by 55 percent in 2010.
We expect this positive momentum to carry over into 2011. We're predicting continued growth in conventions.
Some large conventions will be landing in Milwaukee this year. Here's a sampling:
According to the 2009 Davidson Peterson tourism economic impact report, the purpose of trips to Milwaukee breaks down like this: business travel, 45 percent; leisure travel, 31 percent; and meetings and conventions, 24 percent.
Corporate meetings are beginning to come back and attendance has stabilized or increased. The convention market remains fiercely competitive, and we regularly find ourselves competing with destinations such as Chicago and Las Vegas for business. We'll focus our efforts on markets that will find Milwaukee an attractive destination (value) and fit our convention center and hotel package.
On the leisure side, we continue to see growth opportunities and focus our marketing activities in Chicago and northern Illinois, now our No. 1 leisure market, as well as other parts of Wisconsin, western Michigan and parts of Minnesota.
Visit Milwaukee is an economic development organization that plays a lead role in supporting and growing the area's $2.34 billion tourism economy and the 58,000 jobs that support it. The primary measure of our success since the formation of our organization some 40 years ago is generating hotel room nights and increasing visitor expenditures.
Fulfilling the mission and adding economic value means that Visit Milwaukee will continue to promote and support our many tourism amenities and work with our partners to grow and incubate new events and attractions that could also bring the potential for growth to our tourism economy. Creative and effective tourism promotion has an attractive ROI, and the industry has a proven flexibility to create jobs quickly.
As an organization, we've remained nimble and flexible to meet the changing needs of the traveling public by adapting to the rapid changes in technology and reaching these consumers through a variety of innovative and industry-leading sales, marketing and public relations initiatives, including the most recent deployment of a revamped website and a variety of social media strategies.
Continued collaboration with other local organizations that are promoting and advocating the positive attributes of living, working, playing and visiting the region will continue. Capturing visitors through environmental sustainability efforts, diversity initiatives and the promotion of our region as an economic hub for fresh water and honing in on visitors that will be most receptive to our "value" message will continue. These efforts include the continued engagement with our members and expansion of our corporate membership base.
In addition, working with our board, the Wisconsin Center District, our members and other key partners to assure the continued growth of our industry will continue to be a priority.