Governor Tony Evers visited the Riverwalk Commons Pickleball Courts in Milwaukee on August 3 to announce that $10 million of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds would be used to provide grants to bolster Wisconsin’s tourism industry.
The grants would also support local governments and tourism-entity nonprofits for tourism-related investment projects that help promote, maintain, or have a substantial capital component. Up to $3.5 million will be awarded to regional entities through a competitive application process to eligible infrastructure projects such as convention centers, travel infrastructure, public or nonprofit attractions, and more.
“Wisconsin’s tourism industry was one of the hardest hit throughout the coronavirus pandemic, but these folks are innovative, dedicated, and resilient, and we’re working to make sure our tourism industry can bounce back from this pandemic,” said Gov. Evers. “These investments in tourism infrastructure are not only critical to ensuring that recovery continues, but that our investments help build a strong future for the industry to continue to grow.”
Despite the pandemic, Wisconsin’s tourism industry supported more than 157,000 jobs across the state and had a $17.3 billion impact on the state economy in 2020. So far in 2021, the industry is seeing recovery above 2020 numbers as travelers make up for missed vacations while reconnecting with friends and family.
“In 2021, people are traveling more and staying longer, and this ongoing commitment to Wisconsin tourism will ensure the industry continues to bounce back stronger and will make Wisconsin a stand-out destination for future visitors ready to discover the unexpected,” said Department of Tourism interim Secretary Anne Sayers.
The announcement by Governor Evers was a continuation of the his efforts to support the tourism industry’s recovery and rebound from the coronavirus pandemic. The investments are being funded by the ARPA and will be administered by the Wisconsin Department of Administration (DOA).
“We have seen proof of this recently with the incredible title run by our world champion Milwaukee Bucks,” said Lafayette Crump, Commissioner of the Milwaukee Department of City Development. “There was series of 11 home games in the beautiful Fiserv Forum that Visit Milwaukee estimates brought in nearly $36 million in direct and indirect spending into the local area.”
The new funds were in addition to the governor’s previously plan to use more than $140 million in ARPA funding for Wisconsin’s tourism and entertainment industries. That included $75 million for lodging grants; $11.25 million for movie theaters; $12 million for live event small businesses; $2.8 million for minor league sports teams; $10 million for live venues; $15 million for destination marketing organizations; $8 million for summer camps; $1 million for the Wisconsin Historical Society to assist in reopening historical sites; and $7.5 million to increase marketing support for Wisconsin’s tourism industry.
“Governor Evers’ announcement reiterates his priority of a rapid and complete recovery of the tourism sector,” said DOA Secretary Joel Brennan. “We are excited about the opportunities across the state to help our tourism industry shine, so we can continue to create memories for families and visitors alike for years to come.”