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Officials brainstorm ways to boost Madison tourism spending

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MADISON (WKOW) -- After a tough year for the tourism industry, Wisconsin officials are looking for ways to boost spending in 2021.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Tourism, visitor spending, which was $1.4 billion in 2019, was down nearly 43 percent in Dane County, which was 50 percent more than the state average of tourism economic loss.

In downtown Madison, spending fell from more than $300 million to just over $100 million, plunging more than 62 percent in 2020, more than double the state average. Downtown lodging was hit the hardest, with a 78 percent drop in spending. Food and beverage fell 58 percent and retail fell 50 percent.

After Dane County tourism plummeted in 2020, Destination Madison, a marketing organization for the Madison area, is recommending six ways to accelerate local recovery.

The first part of their recovery plan includes a year-long marketing storytelling program to draw people to Madison websites. The second recommendation involved a sales plan that ensures competitive market advantage.

The third priority is supporting downtown Madison's recovery and revitalization.

"Overall spending in downtown was down at 62%. And nearly half of downtown hospitality jobs were lost just about 2,000," said Destination Madison President & CEO Ellie Westman Chin "So we need to get those jobs back, and we need to get people back downtown. It is a driver for tourism on the growth side and on the leisure side."

Chin says Destination Madison's final three priorities include building connections between public entities, private partners and stakeholders to rebuild the economy, elevating diversity and equity, and ensuring funding for regional hospitality partners.

Emily Friese

27 News Producer

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