Jude case damages Milwaukee’s image

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The profile of the Frank Jude Jr. case that aired nationwide on ABC’s “Primetime Live” program in March cast an unfavorable light on Milwaukee. The reason VISIT Milwaukee cares about this should be obvious. Image and perception is everything when selling a destination. Following the airing of the program, VISIT Milwaukee received numerous phone calls and e-mails from potential visitors who viewed the Jude segment and changed their minds about vacationing in Milwaukee. We were removed from consideration for one national convention based on the Jude incident.
Like ripples in a pool, the negative actions of a few could have an undesirable economic impact upon our entire community and impede the momentum we’ve worked so hard to gain. The investment of more than $1.5 billion in tourism development in recent years, with another $1 billion to come, has greatly increased Milwaukee’s marketability as a convention location and leisure traveler destination, and we must protect our investments by projecting a positive image for the city.
Multicultural conventions and leisure travelers represent one of the tourism industry’s fastest-growing market segments. Based on U.S. Census figures, total ethnic buying power is at an all-time high of approximately $1.4 trillion. Of that, total African-American buying power is estimated at $572 billion, and total Hispanic buying power at $452 billion.
Why is a city’s diversity so important? One of the reasons is because it makes good business sense. Milwaukee is a multicultural mosaic – the sum is greater than the individual pieces. We must nurture an environment of acceptance if we are to recruit and retain multicultural college students, business owners and employees to Milwaukee.
When this happens, Milwaukee becomes a more diverse and creative city as well as a better destination for visitors and convention delegates. This makes good economic sense. There is no single “face of America,” and as a nation, we are richer for it. We have a chance to make Milwaukee richer as well.
Strength in Diversity
This summer, we have a tremendous opportunity to showcase Milwaukee to multicultural visitors when we host the NAACP Annual Convention(July 9-15), the Gospel Music Workshop of America (Aug. 13-20) and the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (Sept. 13-17). Milwaukee’s multifaceted ethnic heritage and commitment to diversity played a large role in attracting these groups. Combined, these conventions will bring more than 33,000 delegates from across the nation who will have an estimated $20 million impact on the local economy. With these events also comes national media exposure due to the extreme high profiles of these groups. The community, including corporations, organizations and state and city government have galvanized in support of this occasion. More than $2.6 million has been raised by the local NAACP branch and the Wisconsin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to make sure Milwaukee puts its best foot forward in hosting these events.
Multicultural Rally
In an effort to better prepare the city for this opportunity, VISIT Milwaukee will be bringing the city’s business and hospitality sectors together on Tuesday, May 3, at “Maximize the Moment,” or “M3” (Milwaukee-multicultural-meetings). This diversity initiative, featuring local entertainers, community leaders and nationally-respected motivational speaker Simon Bailey, will celebrate the national multicultural conventions coming to Milwaukee this summer, increase the understanding of the economic and social importance of this market segment and provide information on how to better meet the needs of multicultural customers.
A Second Chance to Make a First Impression
In doing so, Milwaukee will ready its “front line,” the people who will make that all-important first impression. We’re giving them the tools they’ll need to welcome and best serve the needs of multicultural visitors this summer and beyond. We want the delegates of our multicultural conventions to have a wonderful experience in Milwaukee, talk up the great time they had when they return home and come back as tourists.
Let’s look at the summer of 2005 as an opportunity to take positive action and redouble our efforts as business owners, employees and citizens to work together and celebrate our diversity. Successfully promoting Milwaukee as a destination of choice for multicultural conventions and leisure travelers will have a significant economic impact on our city well into the foreseeable future. Developing an inclusive and accepting community is a step in the right direction.
Doug Neilson, president and chief executive officer of VISIT Milwaukee, writes this exclusive column on tourism for Small Business Times.
April 29, 2005, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI

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