Key takeaways, sights from VISIT Milwaukee’s annual meeting

VISIT Milwaukee's annual meeting was held at the Marcus Performing Arts Center in downtown Milwaukee.

Last updated on July 6th, 2022 at 01:06 pm

VISIT Milwaukee hosted its annual meeting Wednesday, bringing hundreds of local business execs and community leaders to the Marcus Performing Arts Center in downtown Milwaukee to celebrate the continued post-COVD recovery of tourism and travel in the region.

Last year, tourism in the greater Milwaukee area – Wisconsin’s largest tourism market – generated an economic impact of $5.2 billion, which was down 11.9% from record-breaking 2019. In Milwaukee County, tourism economic impact totaled $3.3 billion, down 15.4% from 2019 but up 19.5% over 2020. That’s according to statewide data released earlier this month by the Wisconsin Department of Tourism.

During its annual meeting, VISIT Milwaukee highlighted the major drivers of last year’s tourism activity in the region – including the return of live festivals and high-profile sporting events such as the Ryder Cup, held at Whistling Straits in Sheboygan County, and the Milwaukee Bucks’ NBA championship run – and announced some new initiatives aimed at drawing more visitors and exposure to Milwaukee in 2022 and beyond. Here are some key takeaways:

Milwaukee is getting its own TV show 

This fall, VISIT is launching a TV show called “Good Things Brewing” with a yet-to-be-named national TV network, local affiliates across the Midwest, local stations as well as YouTube and social media. The show, which aims to “give viewers a local’s version of Milwaukee” is being produced in partnership with Milwaukee-based Plum Media and David Caruso, owner of Dynamic Events.

Caruso will appear in each episode, conducting “experiential” interviews at local attractions, restaurants, bars and hotels with Milwaukee’s “most interesting people.” The first episode is slated to debut later this year.

“In creating this show, we seek to reach new audiences to increase interest in and awareness of Milwaukee and the region and drive visitation,” said Josh Albrecht, vice president of marketing and communications at VISIT Milwaukee.

Travel media puts spotlight on Milwaukee 

Last October, Milwaukee hosted the Society of American Travel Writers annual convention, which brought more than 200 journalists to Milwaukee, who visited more than 100 businesses and attractions across the area. Since the convention, the group has generated nearly 70 stories (and counting) about Milwaukee for national publications like USA Today, The Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report, Travel + Leisure, Farm Magazine and Meetings Today. 

VISIT said the city will host another group of 32 travel media influencers, who will produce a variety of Milwaukee-focused content for national audiences of their own. Of the 32 individuals, more than half identify as people of color, LGBTQ+ or disabled.

Speaking to the crowd on Wednesday, VISIT’s communications director Claire Koenig said she’s often asked how the organization boils down messaging about the entire Milwaukee community into succinct, digestible content.

“I always respond with this: Every story told about Milwaukee has something to do with our fantastic quality of life, the innovative people who live here or our rich cultural diversity, and no matter what we’re pitching and how were doing it, we’re telling every story with unapologetic pride,” said Koenig.

Measuring Milwaukee as a destination 

Milwaukee is one of 300 cites worldwide that is working with Destinations International to assess the city as a travel destination. VISIT is first surveying key stakeholders across the region who are impacted by leisure or business travel. The results of the survey, to be made public in September, will serve as report card for the health and benchmarking of Milwaukee as a destination. VISIT is asking businesses and media to take the survey here, from now until Aug. 15.

A second citizen survey will poll residents on their thoughts on Milwaukee’s strengths and how to market them.

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Maredithe has covered retail, restaurants, entertainment and tourism since 2018. Her duties as associate editor include copy editing, page proofing and managing work flow. Meyer earned a degree in journalism from Marquette University and still enjoys attending men’s basketball games to cheer on the Golden Eagles. Also in her free time, Meyer coaches high school field hockey and loves trying out new restaurants in Milwaukee.

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