'Trying our hardest:' Mask mandate, pandemic restrictions keep Milwaukee's tourism industry on its toes

MILWAUKEE -- Now that masks are mandatory in Milwaukee, will tourists choose to get back out and explore? The CEO of VISIT Milwaukee said the impact of the decision to mandate masks may surprise some.

People wearing masks in Milwaukee

When the mandate was announced, a local tour company -- Milwaukee Food & City Tours -- didn't flinch.

"We've slowly, but surely, been getting out there with the community in doing both public and private tours now," said Theresa Nemetz with Milwaukee Food & City Tours. "One of the things we've really had to do is look at the logistics behind our tours and say, 'What needs to change so that we can have greater safety?'"

Mask mandate or not, the tours had already been operating with a social-distancing mindset.

"We're using these audio headsets. Our tour guides actually wear a headset and then our guests also wear a headset," Nemetz said. "Even though they're wearing their masks, they can wear the headset, hear the tour guide as they talk, and distance themselves up to 100 yards."

Milwaukee Food & City Tours virtual tour equipment

However, the tour company's success mid-pandemic is not reflective of the tourism industry as a whole.

"I need to air on the side of making sure that the businesses that support tourism and hospitality can remain open," Peggy Williams-Smith, president and CEO of VISIT Milwaukee, said. "Right now the safest way to do that is through the mask mandate."

Williams-Smith said that if putting a mask on gets people out, then they're masking up. She added that the mandate is something people have been asking for.

"It's not going away, so I'd much rather wear a mask then have to close a building," said Williams-Smith.

Only time will tell if doing so leads to more visitors for Milwaukee's tourism industry.

"All of us as business owners are trying our hardest to be as safe as possible," Nemetz said.

If you are not quite ready to get out and explore, VISIT Milwaukee has information on its website about businesses that are willing to make accommodations or bring a slice of the city to you at home; CLICK HERE for more information.