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Wisconsin Tourism Secretary: Tourism Isn't Simply About A Vacation, It's A Full Economic Lift

Mitch Teich
Wisconsin tourism secretary Sara Meaney next to a state official selfie stand at Lakeshore State Park in Milwaukee.

When new Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes went to get their picture taken for the state’s official highway map, they didn’t go to a studio or to the State Capitol in Madison. Instead, they traveled to a spot in Milwaukee.

Along the edge of Lake Michigan in Lakeshore State Park, there’s an official selfie stand. You can rest your camera on it, and snap a photo with the Milwaukee skyline in the background.  While it’s not the only reason people visit the park, it holds a lot of appeal — and a lot of cameras — for tourists.

So, as summer travel season heats up, Lake Effect's Mitch Teich decided to meet with Wisconsin Tourism Secretary Sara Meaney. Sitting at a bench across from the selfie stand, Teich got an update on her work luring more visitors here.

Credit Angelina Mosher Salazar
Wisconsin Department of Tourism secretary designee Sara Meaney with Lake Effect's Mitch Teich at Lakeshore State Park in Milwaukee.

Tourism is "a full economic lift," according to Meaney. "It isn't simply about a vacation, or a visitor or a one-time pop. It's about long-term growth and sustainability for an industry that is already driving a significant piece of our economy," she adds.

For the first time in years, there's an increased investment in the tourism budget. While that's certainly good news for Meaney, she notes that Wisconsin is still out-spent by many tourism budgets in neighboring states. 

"We have to remain competitive. We have to continue to find ways to fund our efforts and to get our message out to a larger audience," she says.

One way she encourages her team to think differently and engage with their work is by being tourists themselves.

"I’ve really wanted to encourage the entire team in the department and in the tourism industry to be as curious as a visitor within our own state. Because it really is our job to think like a visitor in order to position and tell the stories in a way that makes sense to people who are less familiar," says Meaney.