Tourism: Build It, and They Do Come

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:36 pm

It’s considered a best practice in the retail industry: offer up a loss leader – an item sold below cost – in order to drive traffic to the store and stimulate other purchases. That’s the strategy most cities employ throughout the United States when building convention centers. And it works.

Milwaukee is no different. The Midwest Airlines Center became fully operational in December 1999. It was built to become a catalyst for the revitalization of downtown and to add economic impact to greater Milwaukee by bringing additional business to area hotels, restaurants and attractions.

By any measure, this objective has been realized. Convention business and the number of delegates we have been able to attract have dramatically increased since the opening of the Midwest Airlines Center. And in doing so has added to the quality of life for all residents of southeastern Wisconsin.

By having a more desirable destination, you in effect also have an attractive place to live, work and raise a family. You can’t have one without the other and be a thriving urban destination.

Since the opening of the Midwest Airlines Center, convention revenue produced by Visit Milwaukee has totaled just over $340 million. This is the amount of money the approximately 2.8 million convention delegates and guests have spent on lodging, food and beverage, entertainment, transportation (airlines and car rental) and other revenues.

During this period, the Wisconsin Center District, the taxing authority that oversees the operation of the Midwest Airlines Center, the U.S. Cellular Arena and the Milwaukee Theater, has collected $85 million in taxes (hotel, food and beverage and car rental) from these visitors.

For our residents, this convention and tourism business has supported approximately 39,500 jobs and contributed $920 million in wages and benefits.

Visit Milwaukee, while being the main sales and marketing arm to bring visitors to the city, understands that promoting tourism and bringing visitors to the Milwaukee area is also a collaborative effort that is shared by other community organizations and civic-minded people. As there are economies of scale, we will continue to work in concert with other groups to define our image and bring visitors to the region. Working in tandem with regional and statewide initiatives, we’re making continuing progress in moving our image away from stereotypes and tired old sitcoms.

The Milwaukee 7, the name given to the new regional economic initiative, recognizes the role of tourism and the part it plays in contributing to the economic vitality of the seven-county southeastern Wisconsin region.

We’re active participants in this collaborative effort, participating on the regional identity team that will be implementing innovative strategies to bring greater awareness of our many attributes to a worldwide audience as we are the organization whose responsibility it is to market Milwaukee nationally and internationally as a destination to visit.

Visit Milwaukee is also involved with FILM Wisconsin, a statewide group currently working for the passage of filmmaking incentives with the State Legislature to make Wisconsin a "film friendly" and competitive state in attracting production work. Film and other multi-media are at the forefront of technology and constitute our nation’s largest export product.

Growing and nurturing this "creative culture" and bringing production work to the Milwaukee area means jobs and economic impact to area hotels, restaurants and other support services. Films shot in Milwaukee also have the potential as serve as worldwide advertisement for our city.

Lastly, strategic partners such as our ongoing partnership with Potawatomi Bingo Casino continue to play a significant role in our ability to spread the positive Milwaukee message to potential visitors. As the state’s largest visitor destination, greater collaboration will continue to help us attract more conventions and visitors to our area.

The core mission of Visit Milwaukee to book conventions, fill hotels and bring economic impact to the region does not change. But the approach we’re taking will continue to evolve to take full advantage of strategic partnerships and the rich resources of our area.

Get our email updates