VISIT Milwaukee announced the hiring of new Associate Director of Sales Laura Nelson and National Account Executive Manuel Rocha today, increasing the organization’s capacity to capitalize on Milwaukee’s momentum and the Baird Center expansion.
The new roles for Laura and Manuel include a focus on building Milwaukee’s prominence as a top-tier destination for conventions, meetings and trade shows. The Baird Center, Milwaukee’s primary home for conventions and other major meetings and events, is undergoing a $456 million expansion that is set to open in May of 2024 – a significant step forward for the region.
“I am excited to welcome Laura and Manuel to the VISIT Milwaukee team and look forward to seeing how their skills and perspectives will help us achieve our ambitious goals and continue to build Milwaukee as a must-visit destination for meetings and conventions of all sizes,” said Leslie Johnson, Vice President of Sales & Event Experience for VISIT Milwaukee. “Milwaukee is experiencing so much positive momentum right now, and we need talented team members like Manuel and Laura to make the most of all the opportunities that are coming our way – and develop new opportunities to help take us to even greater heights.”
Laura will manage the Convention Sales department on a day-to-day basis, including directing, training and monitoring convention sales efforts and related activities for the purpose of promoting the Greater Milwaukee area as a premier destination for conventions, meetings and trade shows. She brings a wealth of tourism and hotel sales knowledge; before joining the VISIT Milwaukee team, Laura served as Executive Director of Engage Franklin, an initiative supporting tourism for the municipal government in Franklin, Wis. Her prior experience includes stints as the Tourism and Business Relations Manager for the City of Oak Creek and as Executive Director of the Wisconsin Rapids Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Manuel will be responsible for lead generation and selling Greater Milwaukee as a premier destination for conventions, meetings, trade shows to Midwest markets. This includes directing business leads to the convention campus, partner hotels and other partner firms with the potential to supply support services to these groups.
Before coming to VISIT Milwaukee, Manuel previously worked in manufacturing sales for the heating treating industry and heat exchanger industries, and has extensive sales experience in Milwaukee’s radio industry with 102.1 FM, 103.7 FM, 99.1 FM, 1250 AM and 1460 AM. He also has travel and tourism experience with Midwest Express Airlines and several hotels.
Both Manuel and Laura will help contribute to what looks to be another year of growth for Milwaukee’s tourism economy. The Greater Milwaukee area set an all-time tourism record with a $6.018 billion economic impact in 2022, according to data from the Wisconsin Department of Tourism. Direct visitor spending in Milwaukee County alone grew 23% year over year and contributed $2.192 billion to the local economy. Direct visitor spending in 2022 totaled $3.315 billion in the four-county region.