2019 was the very best yr in latest historical past for Wisconsin tourism — then coronavirus hit
Guests in Wisconsin spent $13.7 billion in 2019, capping off the state’s finest yr for tourism within the final decade. However, the coronavirus pandemic is more likely to vastly rework tourism this yr.
The Wisconsin Division of Tourism introduced in its annual report that tourism spending final yr was up 2.6% p.c from 2018, creating $22.2 billion in financial affect and supporting greater than 202,000 jobs.
Milwaukee County noticed probably the most customer spending adopted by Dane, Sauk, Waukesha and Brown counties. Fourteen counties noticed a slight drop in spending of two p.c or much less and three counties with four% or better declines. Inexperienced Lake County had the biggest drop in spending at practically 13%.
The state’s lodging trade, eating places and tourism companies are struggling to remain afloat as residents have been ordered to keep away from journey to forestall the unfold of COVID-19.
A report by Oxford Economics initiatives the nation’s journey trade will see a $519 billion decline in journey spending in 2020 for a complete financial lack of $1.2 trillion. Tourism Secretary-designee Sara Meaney mentioned Wisconsin has already misplaced $1.268 billion within the final seven weeks, in response to knowledge from the U.S. Journey Affiliation.
“So with out query, whereas a yr like 2019 will help us perceive the chance for the dimensions of the tourism financial system, you recognize, a seven-week lack of dollars at that scale actually places many companies and plenty of communities on the again foot to say the least,” mentioned Meaney.
The town of Bayfield on Lake Superior is house to roughly 500 year-round residents, however the metropolis usually attracts 1000’s throughout the summer time months. Paige Rautio, advertising director for the Bayfield Chamber and Customer Bureau, mentioned they’ve diminished staffing from 4 to 2 folks in response to the pandemic. She mentioned they’ve additionally canceled their Competition of Arts in July, they usually’re bracing for a lack of revenues from room tax dollars.
“However, you recognize, we don’t know what that can be, or we now have situations for 50% loss or 75% loss. However we don’t know,” mentioned Rautio. “Our summer time peak season doesn’t even actually begin till mid-June. So it’s exhausting to say how a lot that is going to have an effect on us at this level.”
Secretary Meaney mentioned they’re anticipating a lack of $13 million or extra in room tax revenues, in response to a survey from Locations Wisconsin. She added that officers are planning forward for when journey might resume, noting they’ll nonetheless encourage folks to expertise Wisconsin even when they’ll’t go to now.
The Northwoods of Wisconsin Advertising Consortium has launched a “We Love The Northwoods” marketing campaign to advertise journey to the area every time the state reopens, in response to consortium chair Krystal Westfahl. The consortium that features tourism companions from Forest, Lincoln, Langlade and a number of other different counties is addressing how the trade will function safely for guests.
“We’re prepared to begin asking them again, and I feel that’s the secret proper now could be having the instruments in place for when the time is correct,” mentioned Westfahl.
Wisconsin’s Tourism Secretary mentioned state officers are additionally working with native chambers and companies to pursue alternatives and sources of funding.
Gov. Tony Evers lately suspended provisions of the Joint Effort Advertising grant program to offer extra flexibility for tourism officers in using funding. The division has additionally put in place a cooperative match advertising program that gives matching funds from the state to leverage native dollars, and it’s working with the Wisconsin Financial Growth Company to establish funding which may be out there for companies.
The way forward for journey and the state’s reopening partially hinges on a choice by the Wisconsin Supreme Courtroom.
The courtroom is ready to listen to arguments Tuesday on a Republican lawsuit that goals to strike down an extension of Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ administration’s “Safer at Residence” order. Republican lawmakers argue the extension, issued by state Division of Well being Providers Secretary Andrea Palm, was unconstitutional and will have gone by way of the state’s rulemaking course of. Attorneys for Evers’ administration argue such procedures would sluggish response to the outbreak.
The stay-at-home order stays in impact by way of Could 26, which coincides with Memorial Day weekend. The weekend usually marks the start of the state’s busy summer time season.
Secretary Meaney mentioned tourism officers must work inside the tips of public well being authorities and what’s wanted to maintain folks wholesome and secure.
“Actually, the issues we worry are lack of key neighborhood companies and the roles that come together with that, but in addition the lack of these organizations and, frankly, these signature occasions and vacation spot hallmarks that actually make Wisconsin as particular as it’s,” mentioned Meaney. “One of many issues that we’ve been specializing in as being extraordinarily necessary proper now could be the function that we as residents play in supporting our local people companies.”
Wisconsin Producers and Commerce, the state’s largest enterprise group, has created its personal plan that will permit companies to reopen with restrictions and protections for employees primarily based on the place they’re situated, the variety of COVID-19 instances, and the kind of work it performs.