Today, Visit Milwaukee celebrated the impact of tourism at its annual meeting, capping off yet another record-breaking year for the industry. Throughout the meeting, the destination management organization unveiled a number of exciting new developments and projects that will continue to propel the city forward during a historic 2024. Announcements included a new merch line, a reimagined Sports Milwaukee logo and awards recognizing Milwaukeeans who are making a difference in the community.


Visit Milwaukee Launches Merch Line

Today Visit Milwaukee launched a line of company-branded merchandise with Milwaukee's own Reyes Retail. In tandem with the organization's new brand, the new product line positions Milwaukee as a lifestyle brand, striving to build visitor affinity and stoke local pride with a series of stylish hats, T-shirts, sweatshirts and more that capture the essence of the city. The new product line is available for purchase starting today at


Sports Milwaukee Unveils New Logo

Kicking off a new era for Sports Milwaukee—the sports division of Visit Milwaukee designed to attract, promote and bolster youth, amateur and professional sporting events in the Greater Milwaukee area—launched its new brand this afternoon. In alignment with the Visit Milwaukee rebrand that was unveiled in April, the Sports Milwaukee brand features a cohesive look and feel, a nod to Sports Milwaukee's seamless sports planner experience from booking to execution, while maintaining its own identity with an exclusive color palate.


Stepping into the Sports Milwaukee starting lineup later this week, the sports division of Visit Milwaukee also announced an addition to Visit Milwaukee's stable of successful newsletters with the 3on3 Fast Break. The new monthly newsletter is a game-changer for Sports Milwaukee, delivering the biggest wins and breaking sports news happening around Milwaukee directly to sports planners, key stakeholders and interested subscribers.


Visit Milwaukee Celebrates the Impact of Tourism

At the heart of the annual meeting, Visit Milwaukee celebrated another watershed year in the travel and tourism industry in Milwaukee County, the Greater Milwaukee area and Wisconsin. According to data from the Wisconsin Department of Tourism, in 2023, the Greater Milwaukee area also set an all-time spending record with an economic impact of over $6.3 billion in 2023, growing by more than $358 million year-over-year and maintaining the four-county area's place as the No. 1 contributor to Wisconsin's tourism economy, accounting for 25.5% of all tourism spending in the state.


In Milwaukee County alone, direct visitor spending grew 6.4% year-over-year, surpassing the domestic inflation rate by 2% and contributing $2.342 billion to the local economy. Alongside direct visitor spending, tourism in Milwaukee County raised over $231 million in state and local taxes, supported over 27,000 jobs and generated over $4.1 billion in total economic impact. To discover the impact of tourism and the transformational economic impact visitation generates for our community, visit the Tourism Insights page on the Visit Milwaukee website.


Visit Milwaukee also recognized the city's hospitality community, which makes Milwaukee a warm, welcoming and accessible destination during this year's annual meeting. The visitor's bureau presented six awards to locals and organizations, spotlighting their impact in the Milwaukee community and efforts to raise the profile of the destination nationally.


DearMKE Award

This year's DearMKE Award was presented to Dan Jacobs of DanDan and Ester Ev. The award recognizes a local small business that has captured Milwaukeeans' affection and succeeded in attracting attention to our community on a national or international level. Showcasing his culinary prowess on the popular American culinary TV show, Bravo's "Top Chef: Wisconsin," Dan shared his love for Milwaukee while raising the profile of the city's sensational dining scene in front of a national audience.


Milwaukee Magnet Award

This year, the Milwaukee Magnet Award was presented to two Milwaukee businesses: Baird Center and Potawatomi Casino | Hotel. An award designated for a company or organization that is drawing dollars and talent to our community, the Milwaukee Magnet Award recognizes their leadership and commitment to long-term economic investment in the Milwaukee region.


With the opening of the $456 million expansion to Baird Center, the Wisconsin Center District transformed Milwaukee into an elite destination for meetings and conventions. More than doubling the size of the convention center to 1.3 million square feet, with 300,000 contiguous square feet of exhibition space, Baird Center unlocks Milwaukee's potential to host even bigger events in the years to come.


One of the city's biggest tourist attractions, Potawatomi Casino | Hotel, completed the final phase of its $190 million expansion project, spanning 114,000 square feet. Earlier this year, the casino opened Milwaukee's first Sportsbook. The casino added Rock & Brews Restaurant, owned by Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley of KISS, a new Cream City Coffee Co. café, 600 new slots, a VIP club, and so much more, completely reimagining the visitor experience.


Joe Bartolotta Hospitality Award

The Joe Bartolotta Hospitality Award was presented to Paul Bartolotta of the Bartolotta Restaurants and Theresa Nemetz of Milwaukee Food & City Tours and Great Lakes Excursions. This award recognizes individuals in the hospitality industry who have demonstrated exemplary commitment and passion for Milwaukee and its residents through initiatives that uplift the community. 


With this recognition, Paul Bartolotta takes home the award that bears his late brother, and business partner's name. Joe Bartolotta was an integral part of the Milwaukee hospitality community and a co-founder of The Bartolotta Restaurant before his passing in 2019. Over the past 30 years, Paul and his brother Joe helped define Milwaukee's culinary scene, developing a collection of award-winning restaurants throughout the Greater Milwaukee area. Paul also played a central role in bringing Bravo's "Top Chef" to Milwaukee, putting the city's culinary scene and Milwaukee as a leisure destination on the national stage.


Another instrumental member of the community in highlighting the city's dining scene for more than 16 years, Theresa Nemetz has showcased the very best bites Milwaukee has to offer with her company, Milwaukee Food & City Tours. Offering visitors and locals tours of iconic landmarks, breweries and more, Theresa's passion for Milwaukee now extends beyond the shores of Lake Michigan to visitors who are disembarking Great Lakes cruises. Great Lakes Excursions offers passengers unique, only-in-Milwaukee experiences.


The Heart of Milwaukee Award

The Heart of Milwaukee award was presented to Hyatt Regency bellman JR Tate. The Heart of Milwaukee award recognizes a frontline worker who has gone above and beyond in their efforts to welcome Visitors to Milwaukee. The bellman at the Hyatt Regency Milwaukee hotel for over 43 years, JR has been an invaluable ambassador for our city on the frontlines for more than four decades. He has welcomed countless visitors during his time with the Hyatt Regency, ensuring they have the best possible experience in Milwaukee.