Tourism in Madison soars following pandemic lows
MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Wisconsin is enjoying a massive bounce back in tourism since numbers dropped in 2020, with a rise in tourism spending rivaling numbers in surrounding states and boosting the local economy.
According to a release sent out by Destination Madison, state-wide tourism spending bounced back to the tune of 34% from 2020 to 2021, sending an additional $1.05 billion to the local economy. The increase was even more dramatic for downtown Madison, which saw a 63% rise.
“It feels like Madison is back, in that same vibe we had in 2019,” said PR director for Destination Madison Rob Gard.
Gard attributes sports as a big reason for the return of tourism to the area; from UW Athletics to the Crossfit Games to the AmFam Championship, it all draws people to the area.
“In Madison, that is huge; they are certainly visiting our restaurants, they are maybe doing some retail shopping, so it’s a big boost to a lot of these businesses that were really down in 2020,” said Gard.
The Wisconsin Department of Tourism reports that travel spending is down just one percent in Wisconsin compared to 2019 numbers. For surrounding states like Minnesota and Illinois, the difference is double-digits. Gard credits the difference to tourists driving for getaways instead of flying further away.
“So maybe people that would have taken their summer vacations or their weekend getaways a little further field are driving for vacation, so we’re putting a lot of intentional marketing into that,” said Gard. “In Madison, we’re expanding that, what was maybe a 400-mile radius we’re expanding to a 600-mile radius, and we’re seeing the impact of those leisure travelers, choosing Madison, choosing Dane County from and Choosing Wisconsin.”
The one area of concern for Destination Madison is jobs. According to the organization, the hospitality industry reported 16,545 employees in 2021, down from 22,600 in 2019.
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