Museum Director Matt Foss and I just returned from spending 2 days at the Wisconsin Governor’s Conference on Tourism (WIGCOT) 2023 in Green Bay. The conference is one of the nation’s largest tourism conferences, and while that is its focus, we were able to experience so much more.
On day 1, after starting the day at the Museum for docent training, we arrived at WIGCOT just in time for the session “Wisconsin’s Powerhouse Brands.” Marketing executives from Kwik Trip, Culver’s, the Green Bay Packers, and Milwaukee World Festival, which produces Summerfest, joined together on a panel to share the role Wisconsin has played in developing their brand identities. It was a rare experience to be able to hear about how some of Wisconsin’s most iconic brands have found success.
After making many of us hungry thinking about our favorite foods from Kwik Trip and Culver’s, it was the perfect time for a networking lunch. This was a great time to introduce ourselves to others in the tourism industry and I immediately felt like our outreach opportunities there were endless. The conference is highly attended by public relations professionals, tourism leaders, media, travel bloggers and more – each interaction a chance to “pitch” the Museum and let others know about our great gem in the center of the state. We also got to hear from the Director of Native American Tourism of Wisconsin (NATOW) who shared how industry partners can help market tribal tourism.
After a productive lunch we had breakout sessions – I attended “DEAI in Action: How to Reach More Diverse Audiences.” The senior VP of Marketing & Communications from Destinations International, which represents destination organizations and convention bureaus across the globe, spoke about ways to build an inclusive and welcoming brand to attract new, diverse travelers. He explained that being welcoming could be the secret ingredient to immense economic growth and gave us examples of how locations across the state and country have done just that.
We wrapped up the day attending “Information Marketplace.” This was a chance for organizations and companies to set up booths to share what they provide to the tourism industry. The event allowed us to discover new ideas and make new contacts – it featured everyone from marketing and data companies to some adorable, certified therapy dogs from the Green Bay Austin Straubel International Airport.
Day 2’s kickoff was quite exciting – we attended the Governor’s Tourism Awards Recognition breakfast. Governor Tony Evers joined the breakfast and recognized his Tourism Award nominees. Each nominee was an individual or business who turned their tourism dreams into reality, creating big results for the industry.
After breakfast we stuck together as a group to learn more about how tough times fuel creativity and innovation – something many of us have been dealing with post-pandemic. The speaker, Kyle Scheele, who has been called the “patron saint of crazy ideas,” believes real creative work thrives within constraints. He entertained and inspired us with some of his “crazy ideas” including having a viking funeral for the regrets of 21,000 people, hosting the world’s first fake marathon, and gaining a million TikTok followers in just 25 hours; he’s been featured in outlets such as the Washington Post, Yahoo!, and Buzzfeed, and his videos have been viewed more than 250 million times.
We wrapped up the morning with a session about how research and data can help identify consumer interests, followed by a leadership lunch. The Wisconsin Department of Tourism recognized the members that make up its seven advisory committees and we learned more about their contributions. The lunch wrapped up with an announcement many had been waiting for – the location of next year’s WIGCOT – which is Lake Geneva.
I left WIGCOT with a renewed excitement about how we can (and do) make an impact in the lives of our visitors and our community, and how we can bring new eyes into the Woodson Art Museum. I look forward to implementing some of the new ideas, continuing to grow connections that were formed at the conference, and supporting fellow travel destinations across the state. I am grateful that we got to WIGCOT.