Travel is back to Wisconsin for Memorial Day weekend 2021
With the pandemic slowing, people are on the move again. The Wisconsin tourism industry is ready.
With the COVID-19 pandemic diminishing as cases decline and vaccinations increase, Memorial Day weekend is expected to provide a much needed rebound for Wisconsin’s tourism industry after a year of health concerns and uncertainty that torpedoed trips to the state.
“The trip is back,” said Craig Trost, communications director for Travel Wisconsin. “It’s coming back big.”
When the pandemic was still very new and Governor Tony Evers’ Safer at Home Order was still in place, only 455,000 people made it to Wisconsin for Memorial Day weekend last year, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA), a decrease of around 45% compared to 2019. A significant rebound is expected, the AAA projecting around 712,000 travelers this weekend, a decrease of 14% compared to 2019 but an increase of 56% compared to 2020.
“There are just a lot of pent-up demands,” said Nick Jarmusz, director of public affairs for the AAA. “People have been staying close to home for quite a while now, and [are] definitely ready to hit the road, change of scenery and discover the country again.
Of course, the pandemic is not over: the state has passed 7,000 COVID-19 deaths this week and an average of just under 300 Wisconsinites test positive for the virus each day, according to Ministry of Health Services data. Vaccinations have also slowed to a ramp, with weekly doses falling for nearly two consecutive months.
The context of the pandemic means that some annual festivals and regular attractions in the state have been canceled or modified to mitigate health risks.
Door County, for example, is the second most vaccinated county in the state with 58.3% of residents completing their vaccine series. But event planners are still cautious in the northeastern Wisconsin tourist hotspot; The annual Fyr Bal festival in Ephraim and Maifest in Jacksonport are taking their time off, while others are taking additional security measures, said Jon Jarosh, director of communications and public relations for Destination Door County.
Earlier: ‘I’m Ecstatic’: High-risk Chippewa Falls girl among first Wisconsin children to be vaccinated when eligibility opens
“It will be a mixed bag this year in terms of our events and festivals,” Jarosh said. “But I think most of our businesses are going to be open and up and running again.”
Still, Jarosh said, Destination Door County expects a “tough” Memorial Day weekend. The tourist office encourages travelers, especially those who are not vaccinated, to bring a mask and follow health guidelines and requirements at local establishments, Jarosh said.
In southeastern Wisconsin, Lake Geneva is expecting an equally successful travel weekend, said Stephanie Klett, President and CEO of Visit Lake Geneva and former Secretary of State for Tourism and host of “ Discover Wisconsin ”.
“Our hotels are reserved, all our attractions are open, and of course [in] Lake Geneva, we are very lucky that this region is great with outdoor activities, which really got us going throughout COVID, ”Klett said.
Due to the labor shortage in the service sector, Klett said travelers to Lake Geneva and beyond should be prepared for longer wait times.
“It’s going to be happening in all destinations across the state,” Klett said.