The Wisconsin Department of Tourism has announced a new grant program to assist destinations as they bid for national or Midwest regional meetings and conventions with the goal of generating increased visitor spending. The Department anticipates that funds awarded through the Meetings Mean Business grant program will help local communities win these events and generate significant economic impact that comes with greater hotel occupancy, meeting space rental and food and beverage expenditures.
“Meetings mean business for Wisconsin on many levels, from tax revenue returned to local communities to job stability for the thousands of people employed in the state’s hospitality industry,” said Stephanie Klett, tourism secretary. "Thanks to Governor Walker and the state’s legislature, the additional investment in the Department’s 2012-13 Biennium Budget allows to more effectively work with our industry partners to compete for profitable meeting and convention business.”
Traveler spending from meetings and conventions accounted for 11 percent of the state’s $12.3 billion in traveler expenditures in 2010. From 2000 to 2008, meetings and convention revenue in Wisconsin increased 45 percent compared to a total travel growth rate of 31.5 percent during that same time period, making it the fastest growing segment of travel in the state prior to the recession.
“We recognize the significant investment in meeting and conference facilities and hotel infrastructure over the last decade and want to support the growth potential of this market with a grant program that allows our tourism partners to go after new business,” said Klett.
Some examples of recent development in meetings and convention infrastructure in the state include the Legendary Waters Resort & Casino, which will open in Red Cliff with a 50-room hotel and meeting space to accommodate banquets up to 300. A new full-service Marriott Hotel with 200 rooms and meeting space was recently approved for construction in downtown Milwaukee. Even leisure-based businesses like Lake Geneva Canopy Tours report experiencing benefits from the meetings market as companies bring employees to off-site locations for team-building experiences.
The Meetings Mean Business grant program provides destination marketing organizations, such as a convention and visitor bureau or chamber of commerce, with financial assistance for expenses such as facility rental costs, shuttle buses or other in-community transportation costs, promotional expenses associated with a host city preview, guest room rebates or other host requirements.