Occupancy was up 0.7 percent in Wisconsin for year-end 2016. Most market areas saw an increase in occupancy for the year, with the largest increase in Wisconsin South Area. ADR was up 3.1 percent statewide for 2016, with the largest increase in Eau Claire/Menomonie. For December 2016, occupancy was down 0.3 percent statewide and ADR was up 3.4 percent.

View Smith Travel Data for your region for December 2016 hereThis link is password protected for WH&LA Lodging Members only.

SOURCE: STR, INC. REPUBLICATION OR OTHER RE-USE OF THIS DATA WITHOUT THE EXPRESS WRITTEN PERMISSION OF STR IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED. Provided by STR. For detailed lodging performance data for your area, contact STR at 615-824-8664 ext. 3504, or info@str.com*Analysis provided by WH&LA.


The AHLA Stars of the Industry awards program was created more than 45 years ago to recognize outstanding accomplishments in the lodging industry. While the categories have evolved over the years, the concept is still the same — to honor lodging employees and properties that best symbolize the quality service of the industry. They want to hear your story!

The AHLA  is now accepting nominations for their STARS of the member companies, properties, and employees are eligible to submit an entry. Nonmembers will not be considered. Not sure if your property is an AH&LA member? Just reach out to AHLA Member Services at membership@ahla.com or (202) 289-3100.

Specific award categories are given based on property size. Size distinctions are small property(250 rooms or less) or large property (250 rooms or more). Important points to know about nominations:

  • Nominees can be either self or peer-nominated.
  • Support documentation may not exceed 10 pages. Videos may not exceed 3 minutes.
  • Incomplete entries will not be considered.

This year’s Stars of the Industry awards highlight the best employees from five coveted categories.

  • North Star Award: Lodging Employee of the Year 
  • General Manager of the Year 
    • Small property (250 rooms or less)
    • Large property (250 rooms or more)
  • Stevan Porter Emerging Hospitality Leader of the Year 
  • Paving the Way Award: Women In Lodging 
  • Innovation of the Year

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The mission of the Wisconsin Hotel & Lodging Associate is “To lead Wisconsin’s lodging industry by delivery valued services to and advocating for our members”. Since 1896, WH&LA has represented hotels, motels, resorts, inns, vacation homes, condo hotels and bed & breakfast throughout the state since 1896. Today, our membership is comprised of all types and size of Lodging properties as well as Vendors, CVBs, Chambers of Commerce, Lodging Executives, Educational Institutions, and Students.

We are delighted to welcome three new Lodging Members!

We are also pleased to welcome three new Associate Members!

We look forward to welcoming even more properties into the WH&LA community this year!


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The Wisconsin Hotel & Lodging Association is pleased to announce we are accepting applications for our 2017 Scholarships. This year we have two scholarships available! After over 100 years representing Wisconsin’s third largest industry, we are excited to recognize qualified students with the following  opportunities for their education:

  • The WH&LA Merit Scholarship offers up to $2000 to be applied toward education. Online application available click here.
  • The GMH&LA Cal Worrell Scholarship offers a $1000 to be applied toward education. Online application available click here.

Scholarship Eligibility Requirements:

  • Reside in Wisconsin
  • Enrolled in an accredited member college/university in Wisconsin
  • Declared major in a hospitality program with lodging components
  • Work experience in the hospitality industry

Applications must be submitted by April 12 for recognition.

Distribution of funds available for September 2017. Recipients must be present at the Wisconsin Lodging Conference Luncheon at The Potawatomi Hotel & Casino in Milwaukee, WI on November 6, 2017.


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Survey results from The U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) and the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) showed the valuable partnerships hotels and the travel sector have in cities across the country. According to the survey, the hotel industry is critical to local economics, career opportunities, community development, tax revenue, and growth.

Data was collected by more than 100 mayors, representing cities of 30,000 or more. The AH&LA Education Foundation funded the survey. Check out the key survey findings below, or click here to read the Executive Summary.

  • Tourism and the hospitality industry was cited as the second largest sector of the economy 20%; the healthcare industry was cited as the largest sector at 28%.
  • Nine out of ten mayors said their community would benefit from more hotels.
  • 70% of mayors believe hotels and lodging provide the best opportunity, benefits, and wages within the tourism industry.
  • 68 % of mayors report hotels and lodging are the largest contributors to their city’s destination marketing fund.



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2017 WH&LA Executive Committee 

WH&LA is pleased to announce the 2017 Executive Committee. Congratulations go to:

  • 2017 Chairman of the Board: Amy Simchak, CHA, North Central Group, Middleton
  • 2017 Chairman-Elect: Aaron Wolf, Comfort Suites Hotel, Green Bay
  • 2017 Vice-Chairman: Jason Ilstrup, HotelRED, Madison
  • 2017 Secretary/Treasurer: Kimberly Vele, Konkapot Lodge, Bowler
  • 2017 Past-Chairman: Dan Schetter, CHA, Best Western Premier Waterfront Hotel & Convention Center, Oshkosh
  • 2017 At-Large Delegate: Greg Stillman, Foremost Management Services Inc., Fish Creek

WH&LA Board Member Update

WH&LA is also pleased to share the addition of 12 new board members elected by their industry peers.

  • Connie Barbian, Connections Hospitality Solutions, Fort Atkinson
  • John Chastan, CMP, Lake Delton Waterfront Villas & Kalahari Resort, Wisconsin Dells
  • Jenna Christensen, Best Western Riverplace, Spooner
  • Jennifer Church, Milmark Hotel/Motel Investments, West Bend
  • Skip Harless, Hilton Monona Terrance, Madison
  • Jeff Hess, Westin Hotel, Milwaukee
  • Mark Hinich, Heartland Payment Systems, Brookfield
  • Mark Johnson, Best Western Plus Milwaukee Airport Hotel & Conference Center
  • Jay Jones, UW-Stout, Menomonie
  • Chris Scheel, Sundara Inn & Spa, Wisconsin Dells
  • Todd Winkler, Wisco Hotel Group, Madison, Milwaukee, Fond du Lac, Appleton, Oshkosh
  • Kari Zambon, Holiday Acres Resort, Rhinelander

The current board members will continue their term in the 2017 year.

  • Tony Beer, Courtyard by Marriott Milwaukee Downtown
  • Justin Behling, Northernaire Resort & Spa, Three Lakes
  • Stacey Bunkelman, Sleep Inn & Suites Conference Center, Eau Claire
  • Bob Dove, Best Western Premier Bridgewood Resort Hotel, Neenah
  • Charlie Eggen, Holiday Inn Express & Suites Madison, Verona
  • Kevin Gallagher, Marcus Hotels & Resorts, Milwaukee
  • Dean Graunke, Birch Creek Inn, Manitowoc
  • Cory Latourell, Hotel Marshfield, Marshfield
  • Jim Laurino, Charter Spectrum Business, Madison
  • Peter Leiby, Best Western Premier, Brookfield
  • Pat Olejniczak, Kress Inn, De Pere
  • Mike Patel, INNsight Management, Eau Claire
  • Lola Roeh, The Osthoff Resort, Elkhart Lake
  • Char Stankowski, Country Inn & Suites – Appleton North, Little Chute
  • Noall Silvester, Holiday Inn Convention Center, Stevens Point
  • Sheryl Tharman, Red Crown Lodge, Arbor Vitae

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WH&LA’s 2016 Wisconsin Lodging Conference & Trade Show featured just under two days of whirlwind scheduling with attendees in many cases going right from the Conference to the polls and a busy night watching election results roll out, or in some cases hosting candidate election results festivities back at their properties!


With lodging member registration packages up another 10% for the third year in a row, and a completely full 84-booth Trade Show (the largest in over 10 years), our room block at our host hotel was exceeded, and additional rooms sold out. It was a great opportunity for lodging property owners and operators to network with peers around the state and gain some new perspectives, while also having some fun at the social events.


Special thanks go to our Chairman of the Board Dan Schetter, not only for his leadership of the association but also for wearing a second hat as General Manager of our host site: The Best Western Premier Waterfront Hotel & Convention Center! Dan and his team went above and beyond in accommodating our growing size and demonstrating their great hospitality as well.


Most members are not aware that the conference programming is created and set by a combination of our Education/Conference Committee and a special Program Task Force that chooses topics and provides speaker suggestions. This helps us to stay on track in providing the type of topics and content that is what you are looking for. Thanks go to Brandon Springer from Lake Lawn Resort for leading both groups through the program puzzle process, and to our Task Force lodging members for their valued input!


With a dozen fantastic packages assembled and donated by many dedicated leaders and members with values ranging from $500 to $2,000, our Monday night voice auction and reverse bingo was great entertainment, combined with plentiful and tasty food stations and beverage stations.  With our daytime silent auction combined with Monday evening’s events, well over $10,000 was raised for a combination of our legislative campaign funds, the Scholarship Fund, and for WH&LA’s Room Tax Legal Defense Fund. Thanks to not only our many donors but also our many buyers throughout the Conference!


WH&LA is excited to support Wisconsin’s hospitality students with the following scholarships and encourage members to take advantage of this opportunity!

  •  WH&LA Merit Scholarship
      – up to $2,000 in scholarships are available for September 2016
  • GMH&LA Cal Worrell Scholarship
      – up to $1,000 is available for September 2016

Surprisingly, we have yet to receive an application and are extending the deadline to Wednesday, April 13th.  To apply, WH&LA is looking for hospitality students to write about their interests and goals in the industry.  Below are links to the application forms and requirements:

Watch for information regarding Conference Scholarships to our November  7th, conference later this year!


The Wisconsin Hotel & Lodging Association named the recipients of its top three industry awards at the Wisconsin Lodging Conference this week at the Osthoff Resort in Elkhart Lake.

Innkeeper of the Year: Jason Ilstrup, HotelRed, Madison

Jason Ilstrup has been the General Manager of HotelRed in Madison since it’s opening 4 years ago, quickly making his positive mark on the community and the area lodging industry, as well as being nominated and elected to serve on the WH&LA Board of Directors. Just elected at the Conference to serve as WH&LA’s 2016 Secretary/Treasurer on the Executive Committee, Jason also is actively engaged in leadership roles in the Madison lodging and tourism industry.

Corporate Champion of the Year: Kevin Gallagher, Marcus Hotels & Resorts, Milwaukee

Kevin Gallagher is Senior Director – Project Management for Marcus Hotels and Resorts in Milwaukee. His responsibilities include to lead and direct all design and construction projects for all Marcus Hotel, which involves developing the scope and scheme of the work with the focus on how to improve the hotels performance.

In addition to serving as WH&LA’s Chairman of the Board in 2014, Kevin has served five years on the WH&LA Executive Committee, chaired the Legislative/Tourism Committee in 2008, and the Education/Conference Committee in both 2010 and 2013.

Associate of the Year: David Jerrett, Bay Towel, Green Bay

David Jarrett is the COO of Bay Towel, Inc., having been there 17 years. He is the chief caretaker of the brand, and considers it his job to ensure that they are consistently delivering the Bay Towel Experience across all business units. He is responsible for the attainment of all short and long term financial and operational goals through the continued implementation of redesigned strategic business and organizational effectiveness plans that have reshaped the strategic direction and vision for the organization.


By Trisha Pugal, President, CEO

Room Tax is a complex issue that began quite simply. It was created in 1967 with the lodging industry agreeing to accept a small tax on their guests to generate local funding to promote and grow local tourism. It was never intended or imagined to be treated like a property tax that funds general municipal services, as lodging properties already pay their fair share of this, similar to other retailers bringing non-residents to the community.

Unfortunately, some began to look at room tax to fund other interests, so changes were made in 1994 and 2006, which helped, but still did not get back to the original intentions and purpose of this unique tax.

On May 27, the Joint Finance Committee approved the following changes to the Room Tax statute to move closer to the original intentions, while reducing the impact on municipalities compared to recent proposed legislation.

1. Transparency – Beginning in May 2016, each municipality with a room tax (more than 270 estimated) will need to file an annual report with the Department of Revenue (DOR) providing such details as their local room tax rate, total room tax collections, how the revenue for tourism promotion and tourism development was spent, and identification of who oversees it. In the first year, any municipality claiming eligibility for the 1994 “grandfather clause” would need to provide documentation demonstrating this. The DOR will have the authority to assess a penalty on those choosing not to report.

2. Tourism Development Clarification – The current definition of “tourism promotion and development” is clarified to specify “tourism development” as currently interpreted.

3. Tourism Funding Oversight – Municipalities would have a choice for oversight of the tourism promotion and tourism development revenues between an appointed “tourism commission,” appointed by the mayor or administrator, or a “tourism entity” (usually a CVB or chamber of commerce) which enables decisions to be totally under local control.

4. Modified ‘Tourism Entity’ Definition – A new definition provides that a) entities created up to January 2015 are eligible, or where there is no other entity one can be created; b) more than half of the entity’s revenue is spent on tourism promotion and tourism development; c) they must provide marketing staff and services for the local tourism industry; d) one local lodging operator is on their governing board; e) an annual report on room tax revenue expenditures is provided to the municipality.

5. Dollar Cap on Grandfathered Municipalities – For grandfathered areas that do not provide at least 70 percent of Room Tax collections to tourism promotion and tourism development, starting in 2016 there will be a gradual reduction for five years in a row of the dollar amount the municipality may keep for its own purposes. In 2016, the cap will be the dollar amount the municipality kept for its own purposes in the year 2013; then in 2017 the cap is the dollars retained in 2012, in 2018 the cap is the dollars in 2011, in 2019, the cap is the dollars retained in 2010, and in 2020 and into the future the cap is the dollars retained in 2009. The concept is that municipalities that are not providing their fair share (at least 70 percent) to tourism promotion and tourism development, should no longer be entitled to the growth in room tax revenue. A clause was also added that the municipality may retain the greater of the capped amount, or 30 percent of room tax collections.

Example: A grandfathered municipality retained $100,000 of the room tax for their own purposes in 2009. Assuming an average annual growth of 2 percent per year, this equals approximately $108,000 in 2013. Moving forward to 2016, the municipality had most recently kept $112,600. The first dollar cap would be $108,000 which is a reduction of $4,200 (-4.2 percent); however, this amount is still invested in growing local tourism, which helps businesses in the community, making it more appealing to locate or stay there.

There is considerable misinformation out regarding what the changes are. We recommend asking to view the municipality’s financial statements relating to room tax to better understand if the concern is a true budget challenge or move a wish to avoid change. To view a copy of the state Room Tax Statute and other Room Tax resources, visit WisconsinLodging.org/roomtax.


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