Economic impact of tourism seen in jobs, income, business sales

MILWAUKEE, WI (May 6, 2019) – VISIT Milwaukee today released final data from the Wisconsin Department of Tourism indicating strong growth in the tourism market for 2018. The data continues to show that the Greater Milwaukee area is the state’s largest tourism market, accounting for 26 percent of total tourism economic impact to the state.
In Milwaukee County:     

  • Total business sales related to tourism were estimated at $3.7 billion, an increase of 5.2 percent over 2017. 
  • Direct visitor spending increased by $115 million to surpass $2.1 billion in 2018 – an increase of nearly $10 million per month. Visitor spending growth accelerated to 5.8 percent, from 3.1 percent in 2017. Spending growth was led by increases in retail and recreational spending, while spending on lodging reached $385 million, increasing 4.9 percent.
  • Tourism supported 32,921 full-time jobs, up 2.2 percent over 2017. Without tourism jobs, Milwaukee County’s unemployment rate for 2018 would have been three times higher.
  • Total labor income from tourism was $1.17 billion, an increase of 3.7 percent over 2017.
  • State and local tax revenue generated by tourism was $246 million, up 3.6 percent over 2017. In the absence of the state and local taxes generated by tourism, each Milwaukee County household would need to pay an additional $645 to maintain the current level of government services.

In the Greater Milwaukee (four-county) area:

  • Total business sales related to tourism were estimated at $5.7 billion
  • Direct visitor spending in 2018 totaled $3.2 billion
  • Tourism supported 52,357 full-time jobs
  • Total labor income from tourism was $1.72 billion
  • State and local tax revenue generated by tourism was $372 million

The numbers are estimates from The Economic Impact of Tourism in Wisconsin, an annual tourism impact study commissioned by the state and conducted by Tourism Economics and released by Travel Wisconsin in early May to celebrate National Travel & Tourism Week. A part of the U.S. Travel Association, National Travel & Tourism Week is May 5-11. 

“These numbers indicate continued strong growth for tourism throughout the region,” said Paul Upchurch, president & CEO of VISIT Milwaukee. “The city has arrived – from major conventions like the DNC to a rapidly growing leisur e market, it’s clear that the secret is out about Milwaukee. Our wonderfully random amenities, venues, attractions, and natural resources make Milwaukee a top choice for visitors.”

VISIT Milwaukee will share this information along with its annual report at its annual meeting on Tuesday, May 14 at the Italian Community Center.   
About VISIT Milwaukee
VISIT Milwaukee is the Greater Milwaukee area’s convention & visitors bureau, marketing the destination as a top choice for business, convention, and leisure travel to national and international visitors to increase the economic impact of tourism in the region. Each year, tourism supports over 52,000 full-time jobs and brings in over $5.7 billion to the community.  VISIT Milwaukee has over 700 members, including hotels/motels, restaurants, attractions, services and area businesses. The Wisconsin Center District, City of Wauwatosa, and Potawatomi Hotel & Casino are strategic partners with VISIT Milwaukee, providing funding support for conventions and tourism programs.  For more information call 1-800-554-1448 or visit