Tourism association wants task force to oversee economic reopening

Published: Apr. 22, 2020 at 5:27 PM CDT
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With the summer months around the corner, businesses in Wisconsin Dells have their doors closed.

Leah Hauck, the Wisconsin Dells Visitor and Convention Bureau Communications Manager, says tourism is crucial.

“Tourism is our lifeblood,” said Leah Hauck. “We love welcoming families and creating memories for people and we want to make sure that we’re doing that into the future.”

Areas like Wisconsin Dells rely on summer tourism for nearly 50 percent of its overall revenue.

In an open letter, Tom Diehl, the president of the Association of Wisconsin Tourism Attractions is calling on the state to start outlining a plan for tourism businesses to safely reopen.

“We’re doing a tremendous disservice to our industry because they’re all sitting there wondering how can I plan, how can I rehire, what can I do?” Diehl said. “We need the road map to get from point A to point B.”

Diehl, who is also the president of Tommy Bartlett, says businesses can use this time to plan ahead for procedures and guidelines when they can open back up.

“It’s going to be an economic hit,” said Diehl. “I’m optimistic enough that the businesses, given a proper plan, will be able to adapt.”

Diehl thinks former Governor Tommy Thompson would be a good fit to lead a task force.

Thompson tells NBC15 he has not yet been approached but would be willing to help if the opportunity presents itself.

“It’s got to have the support of both political parties if it’s going to be successful,” Thompson said. “If we can accomplish that it’s bipartisan and it can be successful, I’m more than happy to be involved.”

Diehl also believes the task force shouldn’t be weighed down by political parties.

“We don’t need one side or we don’t need the other side,” said Diehl. “I happen to believe the best way to do that is bring every party to the table and come up with a comprehensive plan.”

The Wisconsin Policy Forum has

the fiscal fall-out COVID-19 could have on communities, particularly those who rely on tourism.

“The local governments that do depend more on those sales taxes and those [hotel] room taxes are going to see more of an immediate impact,” said Jason Stein, the Research Director for the Wisconsin Policy Forum. “The communities in the Dells are some of the ones that have the most dependence on those revenues.”

The Wisconsin Visitor and Convention Bureau is asking visitors to not cancel any annual trips but postpone them to later this year.

“It might be a great opportunity for visitors to make new Wisconsin Dells memories, just in a different season,” said Hauck. “We’re working together to stay strong and hopefully welcome people back.”