The Greater Milwaukee area, as a whole, has not dropped prices in order to better accommodate tourists during the economic crisis with some exceptions, according to Vice President of Public Relations at Visit Milwaukee David Fantle and Vice President of Retail and Corporate Services Debra Usinger.
MILWAUKEE - The Greater Milwaukee area, as a whole, has not dropped prices in order to better accommodate tourists during the economic crisis with some exceptions, according to Vice President of Public Relations at Visit Milwaukee David Fantle and Vice President of Retail and Corporate Services Debra Usinger.
According to David Fantle, Milwaukee is a “value destination,” meaning regular prices in Milwaukee are cheap compared to other cities, so Milwaukee does not have to lower prices. Usinger’s is one place currently that is trying to help people with discounts on certain items, but many businesses are not dropping prices.
According to Visit Milwaukee, Milwaukee ranked 60th least expensive out of 69 major cities on the Runzheimer Meal and Lodging report. Also, Visit Milwaukee said Runzheimer International ranked Milwaukee the most affordable city for lodging and food compared to other cities that compete for visitors.
The main source of income for Visit Milwaukee and Usinger’s is business people.
“We market the city for meetings and conventions,” Fantle said. “Bringing people in, having them book large blocks of rooms in our hotels, and spend a lot of money, that’s the main idea.”
A “Value Destination”
The hospitality and tourism industry has been hit hard by the recession that the country is currently in.
According to Fantle, hotel occupancy now compared to the same period last year is down somewhere in the 15 percent range. With the drop in hotel occupancy, other businesses have a drop off as well because not as many people are coming into the city and spending money, Fantle said.
Yet, Fantle is optimistic with the city in and out of the recession.
“I would say we are faring comparatively well in the recession,” Fantle said. “I think we’re always well-conditioned to do well when we emerge from this recession.”
The reason for the optimism may have to do with the state being a “value destination.”
According to Fantle, Hotwire.com named Milwaukee in its top 10 “2008 Best Places for Value Vacations.
Unlike Las Vegas, Milwaukee’s pricing is consistent, Fantle said.
“Right now a $65 room in Vegas was a $265 room a year ago,” Fantle said. As soon as they can get back to $265 they’ll go for it, whereas Milwaukee has always been more of a steady shift.” Although Fantle said most businesses stay consistent with their pricing during bad times, Fred Usinger Inc. does something unique.
The old brown building next to the Milwaukee River and located on Old World 3rd Street, is one of the most famous sausage companies in the country. Usinger’s sells items ranging from bratwurst to knackwurst to ring bologna.
Usinger’s is trying to help people who are struggling by promoting what they call the “Sausage Stimulus Package.”
“On a regular basis, we are giving super special prices on certain seconds items, and we make up a little flier that we have published in the store that probably changes weekly,” Usinger said. The seconds’ items contain food that may have a bump in it, or it contains food that was over ordered and is therefore sold at a lesser cost.
Some examples of the deals are listed below with the first price being the second’s item, and the second price being the normal price.
Usinger’s can change the price for seconds’ items, but the company cannot change its basic normal price.
“It is still costing us what it costs to manufacture the product and all those other types of things,” Usinger said.
Targeting Business people
Sitting down at a restaurant alone with an ice cold beer with him, St. Louis resident Jim Waters is struggling during the recession.
“I sell equipment to the steel industry, and the steel industry is really down because of the automotives and everything else,” Waters said.
As a result of struggling, Waters only came up to Wisconsin for two things: a museum and business.
“I have two customers up here,” Waters said.
Usinger’s and Visit Milwaukee get a lot of business from businesspeople like Waters.
“A lot of times we get a lot of people that are in town for conventions,” Usinger said.
Surprisingly the business in the Usinger’s store is up for the year by almost 25 percent, according to Usinger.
A way in which Usinger’s has tried to reach customers from out of state, especially business people, is by running more ads.
“We did a series of ads telling of different hot specials that would be attractive to get people to come into our retail store,” Usinger said.
Why the focus on business people? According to Fantle, meetings and conventions are things Visit Milwaukee can track, whereas the leisure visitor cannot be tracked.
Visit Milwaukee also gets its funding from people who visit the city and stay in the hotels, who are mainly in Milwaukee for meetings or conventions.