CHICAGO — From cars with Illinois license plates lining the streets of Lake Geneva, to Chicagoans sporting Door County T-shirts, it’s no secret that the Land of Lincoln accounts for a significant number of visitors to Wisconsin.
Now, tourism leaders from around the state are looking at ways to grow the tourism base from Illinois.
Wisconsin in Chicago Day is one way of accomplishing that goal. Held at Chicago’s Union Station, the event was a chance to market to Chicago-area commuters headed to and from work.
It highlighted much of the tourism around the state, such as Milwaukee-based entertainment destinations like Summerfest and Potawatomi Hotel and Casino, to cities like La Crosse and West Bend.
Pat Nash works for Destination Door County. Nash said Chicagoland accounts for a large percentage of visitors to the area, and to be able to market to them directly meant a lot.
“Anytime you get to showcase our area to a market like Chicago, you always appreciate the opportunity. To come together with all these great destinations and other organizations throughout Wisconsin it has been a great thing,” said Nash.
Visit Milwaukee played a role in organizing the event. With Milwaukee just 85 miles from Chicago, getting weekend visitors and day-trippers is important in order to grow tourism.
Visit Milwaukee President and CEO Peggy Williams-Smith said this helped to get the city’s name out there to more visitors.
While it is hard to know exactly how much impact it will have, she said past examples have shown it makes a big difference.
“We did this two years ago on a much smaller scale. We came down with a bunch of Summerfest tickets the week before Summerfest and we handed out 50 sets of tickets and we had 17 of those tickets redeemed. So, we know it did entice people to come up, so we are hoping we see a huge influx,” said Williams-Smith.
Visit Milwaukee estimates about 18% of all visitors to Milwaukee come from the Chicagoland area.