MILWAUKEE- A coalition of tourism officials is asking Wisconsinites hesitant about getting the COVID-19 vaccine to reconsider.
“We’ve been going around, dropping off baked goods and cookies to our neighbor businesses,” Visit Milwaukee CEO Peggy Williams-Smith says. “The faster our city gets closer to herd immunity, the faster we get to doing what we love with who we love.”
Tourism spending in Wisconsin was down roughly 30% in 2020, or about $4-billion. On an average year the industry is good for about $14-billion in revenue for the state. Spending dropped from $13.6 billion in 2019 to $9.8 billion last year.
Of the areas hit hardest, Milwaukee lost roughly $1 billion in direct spending due to the cancelation of major festivals and events like Summerfest, the Democratic National Convention, and the Wisconsin State Fair. Two out of those three events have already announced plans to return this summer.
“Tourism is an integral part of Wisconsin’s economy and will be in its recovery,” Tourism Secretary Ann Sayers said. “Travelers are getting revenge on missed vacations and reconnecting with friends and family by discovering the unexpected in Wisconsin.”
Sayers says despite a difficult 2020, she’s optimistic about 2021.
National research shows that 86% of Americans said they planned to travel this year. Sayers noted that vacations spanning at least two nights have already surpassed those in 2020 and are on pace to break 2019’s record.
To get all the way back to where we were pre-pandemic, Williams-Smith says strong vaccination numbers will be needed.
“Research shows that visitors are not only interested in visiting places with strong COVID-19 practices but also want to visit communities where vaccination rates are high,” she said. “In order for people to feel fully safe, it’s extremely important for us to talk about how safe they can be at restaurants, bars, hotels, and get back to some semblance of normalcy.”
According to the Wisconsin Department of Health, more than 42% of eligible Wisconsinites have gotten at least partially vaccinated against COVID-19, while 35% of people have completed their vaccine cycle.