Circle Wisconsin is the statewide organization dedicated to group travel to the state. In this interview, executive director Wendy Dobrzynski gives an industry update on market conditions around Wisconsin.
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“Some areas are doing better than others,” said Dobrzynski. “A lot of leisure travel across the state to state parks and shorelines. It helps that Wisconsin has so many outdoor activities with sightseeing tours and boats, all with safety protocols in place.”
Though this is anything but a normal year, there’s been some group travel activity in Wisconsin. “We have seen some tours come into the state. We just had a group in Green Bay and another do a mystery tour to the southwestern corner of the state. We are seeing something, of course not at the numbers we all wanted to see, but it’s encouraging that there are some tours.”
She commented that it really speaks volumes to group leaders and tour operators who are instilling trust in their travelers.
Dobrzynski expects groups to want to explore more outdoors going forward. “The one thing about Wisconsin is that we have such beautiful outdoor spaces. Lakes and rivers, so many things you can see along the water. The Horicon Marsh is amazing. I love to see motorcoaches get off the beaten path to enjoy these hidden gems.”
Dobrzynski also talked about the motorcoach rally she attended in Washington, DC earlier this year to showcase to politicians how important the bus industry is to moving Americans. “It was amazing to see our industry come together and tell our story that motorcoach travel is important. Unfortunately, we’re still trying to get this message through.”
Even though the CERTS act has received support from a large bi-partisan group in Congress, it’s stalled in the larger relief package. The bus industry continues to work on its messaging how the motorcoach market impacts so many different jobs and elements of our economy.
Circle Wisconsin has cancelled its Midwest Marketplace event for 2020, opting for a live show format for 2021 versus a virtual marketplace. “We feel like Midwest Marketplace is a travel family and to go virtual we feel we’d lose a lot of that. Unfortunately, it just didn’t work out for this year, so we are going to move forward with 2021.” The show will be April 11-13 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
Going into 2021, Dobrzynski advises suppliers to expect smaller groups. “I think it’s going to take a while for the tour groups to come back to 35-40 passengers. The industry is going to have to be flexible with that,” citing the need for hotels, attractions and restaurants. She believes that we’re going to see more groups traveling starting next spring into summer and fall. “The group market is going to come back. It’s very loyal.”
At the same time, she urged suppliers to “continue building those relationships, keep that communication going. They have their ups and down, but they are going to come back before the 500- to 1,000-person meetings.
“It’s slow right now, it’s bad right now, but if we just stick together, they will be back. They will always be back.”