Local tourism industry loses $52M from canceled events since COVID-19 outbreak

Posted at 7:54 PM, May 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-06 09:09:39-04

MILWAUKEE — Heading into 2020, anticipation was high as Milwaukee prepared for a calendar stacked with events and streets filled with people. Then came the coronavirus outbreak, and with it cancellations and postponements causing the city to loose millions of dollars in tourism business.

69 events scheduled for this year have been canceled or postponed thus far, according to Visit Milwaukee. A loss of nearly $52 million to the city.

These events are specifically referring to conventions, like the Jewish Community Center’s JSummit, the International Moose Convention, and the Bead and Button Show. The numbers do not reflect the summer festivals, including Summerfest, or the major sporting events for the Bucks and Brewers.

If postponed events aren’t rescheduled this year, Visit Milwaukee estimates a loss of 67,000 room nights at local hotels.

Colin Walsh of the Greater Milwaukee Hotel and Lodging Association said this couldn’t have happened at a worse time of the year.

“This is when hotels and lodging venues make the bulk of their revenue,” Walsh said.

The impact isn’t just on hotel rooms, but also on all of the business that comes with hosting a convention at a hotel.

“It’s the food and beverage associated with, it’s the catering functions, it’s the banquet functions,” said Walsh.

There are still some big events moving forward in August, including the Wisconsin State Fair, the Democratic National Convention, the USA Triathlon National Championships, Northwestern Mutual’s annual meeting and then in September, the Ryder Cup.

While Williams-Smith admits we may not see the same impact this year that we expected, she feels we’ll come out stronger in the end.

“I still believe it’s the year of Milwaukee. I think it’s the actual decade of Milwaukee and I think we’re going to continue to see good things happen. It’s just going to be a little delayed from when we thought it would start,” Williams-Smith said.

Williams-Smith said the team at the visitor’s bureau is working around the clock to reschedule events that have been postponed. Right now they’re booking out as far as 2027.

For a list of events and conventions that have been canceled or postponed as of April 30, click here.

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