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Sara Meaney: Wisconsin tourism needs your help

Sara Meaney: Wisconsin tourism needs your help

Memorial Day weekend (copy)

Ferry Landing Concessions opened Friday in Merrimac as motorists made their way off the ferry after crossing Lake Wisconsin. The opening of the ice cream stand, a fixture since the 1940s, is one of the signals that summer has arrived in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin's tourism industry is a colorful patchwork quilt: retail and hospitality businesses and workers, rich cultural assets, exciting entertainment attractions, abundant public amenities, beautiful natural resources, events and experiences. It is this motley collection of people and experiences that makes our communities great places for residents to live, businesses to invest, and travelers to visit. Tourism is an essential, cross-sectional slice of every community in the state, not simply the playground of outsiders.

In 2019, the tourism industry had one of its best years in more than a decade. But in 2020, these businesses desperately need your help. At Travel Wisconsin we have remained busy finding the right ways to inspire travelers to experience Wisconsin during these uncertain times. Here are four ways you can help support the recovery of Wisconsin’s tourism industry:

1. Choose Wisconsin if you do choose to wander. With over 15,000 lakes, 43,000 miles of rivers and streams, nearly half of the state covered by forests, and more trails, and outdoor activities than you can count, there are loads of places to social distance to your heart’s content. Be sure to bring your own supplies and consider spending your dollars in local businesses in the area.

2. Splurge on local Wisconsin products and services (or gift cards!). Wisconsin is home to some of the most inspired makers and producers across all facets of local goods. A creative work from a local artist, a day at the spa, a selection of award-winning Wisconsin cheeses, or a great new local pride t-shirt are just a few ways you can show your support of Wisconsin’s tourism-dependent businesses.

3. Take in Wisconsin’s fresh take on food and beverages. Many local restaurants and bars have reopened, following best practices designed to keep their employees and their customers safe and healthy. Pick up a freshly made farm-to-table dinner from a local favorite and pair it with a bottle of Wisconsin-made wine, beer or spirits, and let your happy tastebuds reap the rewards of your effort to keep local businesses open.

4. Respect Wisconsin’s communities and residents by being a responsible traveler. The social distancing and capacity limits recommended by businesses and public health experts are put in place to protect your health and the health of your neighbors. Be a thoughtful consumer Wisconsin’s natural resources, parks, and public amenities. Follow public health guidance to protect yourself and respect the choices of others to protect themselves and their families.

With your help and support, the economic recovery for local communities all over the state can begin. I hope you will join us to do all you can to help the tourism industry survive today and thrive again in the near future.

Sara Meaney is secretary-designee of the Wisconsin Department of Tourism.

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