Wisconsin’s tourism secretary expects a modest rebound this year, for one of the state’s most important industries. Department of Tourism Secretary Kelli Trumble says new numbers show the industry saw a decrease in traveler spending in 2009. “The greatest drop was in the meetings and convention and business travel segment,” Trumble told WRN. Leisure travelers were unwilling to give up their Wisconsin vacations, but may have spent less while doing that. “So leisure was down around six percent, but where we had the greatest decline was around fifteen percent in the business convention, and about ten percent in business travel.
The state’s tourism industry followed the nation in posting a decline in traveler expenditures, down 7.8% in 2009 compared to 2008. However, Wisconsin fared better than the national average, with the U.S. Travel Association reporting a 9% decline for the country overall. Total traveler spending in Wisconsin in 2009 was estimated at $12.1 billion. Declines were evenly spread across all four travel seasons, according to an economic impact study prepared for the department.
The drop off in business and convention travel, said Trumble, occurred so quickly “that it was hard, and will be for some time for the industry that is focused on meetings and conventions to come back from that.” However, Trumble says a new initiative with the Department of Commerce aims to keep Wisconsin convention and business travel here in the state. “We are asking Wisconsin CEOs and business leaders . . . that as you’re thinking about your training sessions and board meetings and conventions, that you hold them right here in Wisconsin rather than heading out of the state.” Trumble says the economic impact of a single, two night business meeting with 25 people is about $16,000.
Trumble describes the overall mood of the industry as promising this year. “The industry is feeling that way: optimistic and promising. The industry is going to see modest growth, and I do really mean modest, in 2010.” Among the standout events this year, the PGA Tour returns Whistling Straits and the Tall Ships return to Green Bay, both in August. Trumble sees growth and change in the long term prospects for tourism in Wisconsin. “The tourism industry here is one of the most important pillars of the state’s economy, along with manufacturing and agriculture. We are an industry just filled with entrepreneurs, who are constantly looking for new ways to help people relax and be rejuvenated. We know that the new normal for travel is all about people making their travel plans and getaway plans closer to the time of departure, and people are really looking for bargains. It’s a good time to travel because of that. Because of our genuine hospitality here, and that people can trust that Wisconsin is a tried and true vacation experience, we will continue to be at the core of the strength of Wisconsin’s economy.”
Bob Hague interview w/Kelli Trumble (18:00 MP3)AUDIO: Bob Hague interview w/Kelli Trumble (18:00 MP3)