Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:36 pm
It’s no secret. We’re engaged in a daily competitive battle to win convention business for Milwaukee. Like cereals on the grocery store shelf, people have a lot of choices. Whether it is Kansas City, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Columbus, Minneapolis or even Chicago, we have to work to differentiate us from the rest of the pack.
Some destinations – Las Vegas and Orlando, for example – pretty much sell themselves. Others, such as Milwaukee. don’t have as well-established of an image as these cities so we need to put on a "full-court press" to capture our piece of the convention business from our competitive set of cities. Since the opening of the Midwest Airlines Center in 1999, and the continual improvement in our tourism product, we have a better destination to sell, we’re making progress in defining our image and our visitors are consistently delighted by their experiences in Milwaukee. The word is spreading, but we need to do more.
Having the right convention infrastructure and supporting tourism amenities, while vitally important, aren’t the only components that can help close the deal. What has been extremely effective for Milwaukee is engaging people in our community to identify groups they are affiliated with and work with us to bring these organizations’ gatherings to town. This type of local support and involvement can play a key role in an organization’s final decision on where to hold a convention.
We saw that vividly come into play last summer with the NAACP and United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce annual conventions. Without strong local chapter support, as well the significant financial backing of local companies, we would not have been able to win those conventions to Milwaukee.
The Milwaukee Leader Program is a new initiative for all residents to get involved and help us bring groups to Milwaukee. As a diverse population, many of us are involved in a variety of professional and civic organizations, many of which hold regular regional or national conferences. What a better display of community pride than to work with us at VISIT Milwaukee to bring these gatherings "home" and showcase our city as the desirable visitor destination it has become.
Until May 31, civic-minded residents can go to a special Web site: www.visitmilwaukee.org/milwaukeeleader to submit their names and the names of the organizations they are affiliated with. In addition to submitting your name and offering valuable leads, you will be eligible for a drawing to receive two round-trip tickets on Midwest Airlines to any of their destinations.
Based on these submissions, our sales staff will research and determine if these organizations hold meetings that can fit in Milwaukee and then make the appropriate follow-up calls. We have better results in booking conventions when we have the enthusiastic support of local organizational members.
Why take the time to go to the Web site and input this information? Call it community pride. What better way to "show off" our city than to invite members of groups we’re affiliated with to come and visit? But more importantly, the more business we book for Milwaukee, the greater economic impact we’ll bring in the form of traveler expenditures, which improves the quality of life for all of us by creating jobs and growing the local and state tax base.
As a complement to the Milwaukee Leader Program, we’ve been working on an initiative with the Wisconsin Center District Task Force charged with exploring new opportunities to bring convention business to Milwaukee. We’re targeting 40 Milwaukee-area organizations and affiliated leaders and inviting them to a lunch hosted by Tim Hoeksema, chairman and chief executive officer of Midwest Airlines, and Steve Marcus, chairman and CEO of the Marcus Corp. As acknowledged leaders in the travel and hospitality industry, Tim and Steve will make the in-person business case to this group of influencers on the importance of providing us leads, helping us "close the deals" and bringing conventions to Milwaukee.
Fill out the form on the web site. Consider it community pride. You’ll be glad you did!