Milwaukee tourism outlook brightens for 2010

The hospitality and convention business is poised to make a comeback in 2010. Convention business on the books for 2010 is on pace to finish 57,000 room nights ahead of 2009.

Some large high-profile conventions will be landing in Milwaukee this year. Here’s a sampling:

  • The American Legion, Aug. 26-Sept. 9, 21,255 room nights.
  • The Northwestern Mutual Financial Network, July 24-28, 12,600 room nights.
  • Lions International, Sept. 22-25, 6,850 room nights.
  • National Model Railroad Association, July 8-18, 6,000 room nights.
  • Lia Sophia, June 27-29, 4,650 room nights.
  • American Chamber of Commerce Executives, Aug. 4-7, 4,500 room nights.
  • American Chemical Society, Oct. 12-14, 3,770 room nights.

No surprise that the bottom fell out of the hospitality and tourism industry during the fourth quarter of 2008 due to the deepening recession and continued throughout 2009 with some guarded optimism for a recovery as the year came to an end. The downturn was exasperated last year when key federal lawmakers “demonized” legitimate business travel resulting in a loss of an estimated 247,000 travel-related positions in 2009 in the United States, according to the Department of Labor.

Visit Milwaukee took an aggressive advocacy position to spread the message via the media and our members that attending meetings and conferences have a proven positive bottom-line impact.
Visit Milwaukee also used this downturn to aggressively promote Milwaukee as a “value” destination for travelers seeking a more moderately priced destination.
Fortunately, the outlook for 2010 is looking better. According to the U.S. Travel Association, leisure travel is expected to rise 2 percent and business travel is expected to increase by 2.5 percent, resulting in an addition of approximately 90,000 jobs – the start of what we hope is a sustained recovery for our industry.
The year ahead looks to be the beginning of a “recovery” period for the industry. However, measurable year over year hotel occupancy increases are not expected until the end of 2010 or early 2011. According to the 2008 Davidson Peterson report, the purpose of trips to Milwaukee was 44 percent business, 30 percent leisure and 26 percent meetings and conventions.
Visit Milwaukee is an economic development organization that plays a lead role in supporting and growing the area’s $2.7 billion tourism economy and the 66,000 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 accompanying 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.
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 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.
The Milwaukee Certified Tourism Ambassador (CTA) program: The idea of this national customer service training program is to inspire front-line hospitality employees and volunteers to turn every visitor encounter into a positive experience. The program consists of pre-session reading, a half-day class, concluded by an open-book exam. The program has exceeded our expectations and the feedback from the participants has been overwhelmingly positive. Since the program’s inception in October of 2007, the number of Milwaukee-area CTAs now totals 755. With classes offered every month, we fully expect this number to continue to grow. Go to www.ctanetwork.com for more information.

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