Visit Milwaukee offers cash incentives to draw conventions to town

As part of its marketing strategy in promoting Milwaukee as a viable destination for meetings and conventions, Visit Milwaukee has established a cash incentive program to give companies a financial break when bringing their event to the city.

Corporations, associations and organizations that book a 2014-15 meeting or convention in Milwaukee are eligible for a grant of $5,000 to $10,000 from Visit Milwaukee.

The meeting planner convention incentive acts as one more marketing tool in Visit Milwaukee’s tool chest that helps make the city more attractive, said Brent Foerster, vice president of sales and marketing at Visit Milwaukee.

“Being in a very competitive industry, we’re always looking at different things in order to have Milwaukee stand out say from our competition,” Foerster said.

Other marketing tools in Visit Milwaukee’s tool chest include value-added promotions and pricing discounts with caterers, hotels and event venues.

“Part of the industry is offering various incentives, whether that be discounts or price concessions or value additives, especially during what we would call need periods,” Foerster said.

In order to receive the cash incentive, participants must use the incentive for convention- or meeting-related expenses. Participating groups must have a minimum of 350 guest room peak nights. They need to use the Delta Center for their event and book between Jan. 1, 2014, and Dec. 31, 2015. Visit Milwaukee also requires written confirmation of a group’s intent to host their convention or meeting in the city by Oct. 1, 2013.

Visit Milwaukee tries to reserve this type of cash incentive for larger conventions that will have the most significant impact on local hotels, restaurants and stores, according to Foerster.

He defines large conventions as those that use a Milwaukee venue, such as a convention center, and fill at least 1,000 hotel rooms in a minimum of two Milwaukee hotels.

Larger conventions create compression in the market, allowing for more revenue for Visit Milwaukee’s partners and boosting occupancy rates in the city. They ultimately provide hotels, restaurants and stores opportunities to maximize their business, Foerster said.

“If you take a big convention out of that equation, it’s hard to fill up hotels with leisure and business travelers,” he said.

Visit Milwaukee, which factors the cash incentive into its sales and marketing budget, has also tweaked the incentive parameters as its budget has changed, as the types of groups considering Milwaukee have changed and as high-demand dates have continued to change.

To market this latest cash incentive, Visit Milwaukee has posted the deal on its website, created banner advertisements on key meeting planning websites, relied on email marketing and direct mailings, produced inserts with details about the incentive, and created promotional pieces to feature at trade shows and send with sales personnel across the country.

Over the last two and a half years, the incentive has secured more than a dozen convention and meeting bookings with both national and international corporations and associations.

It’s a little something extra aimed at catching the convention planner’s eye, Foerster said.

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