The region’s hospitality industry is in critical condition. After a record year of visitor spending in Wisconsin in 2019, the effect of COVID on the regional hospitality industry has been devastating, imparting both an economic toll on communities and a personal toll on the tens of thousands of regional people who work in the industry. Madison, Wisconsin Dells, Janesville and Beloit each entered 2020 riding waves of recent visitor spending successes. Wisconsin Dells welcomes over 4 million visitors each year, and in 2019 visitor spending contributed to $1.67 billion of economic impact. In Janesville, visitors spent over $147 million in 2019, up 1.6% from the previous year. The greater Madison area saw record visitor spending in 2019, at $1.4 billion while Beloit recorded $264 million spent by visitors.
Anna Shircel, PR & Communications Manager with Destination Madison, spoke with leaders who represent regional tourism agencies and asked for their perspectives on how COVID-19 has affected their communities and what hope they have for the future.
How important is tourism/hospitality to your community?
Deb Archer, President and CEO of Destination Madison: Madison’s hospitality and tourism industry is a critical piece of the fabric of our community and economy. Beloved local shops and restaurants, iconic Madison attractions, live music and cultural festivals along with sporting events and legacy tradeshows that take place each year – these entities and events are fueled by visitor spending and reflect the vibrant personality of our destination.
Romy Snyder, President & CEO of the Wisconsin Dells Visitor & Convention Bureau: Tourism is far more than waterparks, attractions, hotels, golf courses and restaurants. Tourism boosts our local economy, employs thousands of people, supports infrastructure and education, enriches our area businesses and creates economic development in our community. Tourism plays a critical role in Wisconsin Dells.
Christine Rebout, Executive Director at Janesville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau: The tourism industry supports over 125 restaurants and 9 hotels in the Janesville community. Visitors to our community help sustain the community’s largest events including the National Water Ski shows, Freedom Fest, Art Infusion and the Tour of America’s DairyLand Bike Race; enhancing our quality of life and providing great activities for local residents to enjoy.
Celestino Ruffini, CEO at Visit Beloit: Our community recognizes that tourism is a strong backbone to our local economy. Before someone chooses to reside or build a business here, they first come as a visitor to experience our tourism-related assets that are deeply valued not only by visitors, but also by our residents.