Milwaukee tourist spending dropped 37% in 2020

National Travel and Tourism Week ends Saturday, May 8. As part of it, VISIT Milwaukee released data from 2020 showing the devastating impact the COVID-19 pandemic had on the city's tourism economy. However, there is hope for this summer.

"There’s a lot of reason to be really hopeful for this summer," said VISIT Milwaukee's Claire Koenig.

With summer just around the corner and the vaccine rollout underway, things are looking up for Milwaukee tourism.

"We are starting to see hotel occupancy rates creeping back up a little bit, which is amazing, and that’s a very good sign that people are visiting," Koenig said.

It is that type of news the industry needs to overcome the devastating loss brought on by the pandemic.

2020 data shows direct visitor spending in Milwaukee was down 37% as restaurants, bars and hotels sat empty for months.

"Hotels were maybe one of the hardest hit. If you think about it business travel completely stopped," said Koenig.

The good news is people are starting to come back to the city. With big events like Summerfest and State Fair returning, VISIT Milwaukee encourages everyone to get vaccinated.

"The higher the vaccine rate can be, the more people are going to feel comfortable traveling. The more comfortable locals will feel out and about in their own community," Koenig said.

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It is still unclear what those events will look like when it comes to safety precautions. May are just excited for a sense of normalcy.

"I think people are starting to see hope," said Koenig.

To help support the industry, VISIT Milwaukee also encourages people to buy local goods and services.

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