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** watch for a featured session each week **
Managing Your Online Reputation: The Role of Social Media 

As lodging properties are dependent upon a quality reputation in order to attract and retain guests, learn how you can best customize your social media approach.

Travelers are expressing themselves and sharing their experience in a powerful way across multiple social media platforms. No matter the size of your property, returning guests, prospective travelers and even future employees are looking at your pages and talking about you!

Our panel will discuss the necessity of user generated content and how to maximize regular social media interactions to ensure business success.


Kelly Ehlers is the Founder and President of Ideas that Evoke, an award winning Madison-based social media and PR agency. Since 2009, the agency strives to solve business challenges through social media, influencer marketing and public relations.

Kelly’s rapidly growing agency works with global and domestic brands, including Proctor and Gamble, COTY Beauty, AC Hotel by Marriot, The North Central Group and more.

Matthew Olson founded Signalfire in 2006 after diverse design experience in commercial printing, outdoor advertising, and technical document development.

Signalfire fully supports over a dozen Wisconsin tourism-related clients ranging from resorts to CVBs. Signalfire’s team is based in Delavan but serves clients across North America.

Dr. Andy Dahl is a Marketing Lecturer at the University of Wisconsin – Whitewater where he teaches digital marketing courses and serves as the advisor to the UWW student-run marketing consulting branch.

He has over fifteen years of marketing consulting experience which he gained by helping clients to establish database marketing efforts, launch products, and evaluate marketing/branding efforts.

For More Information:    Visit our Conference Web Site

Lifelines for Addressing Worker Shortages
Like many other industries in Wisconsin, the lodging industry is facing many challenges in filling positions to continue to achieve the great reputation Wisconsin’s hospitality industry has earned over the years.
Turnover continues to be a pervasive problem for the hospitality industry.  Additionally, as a career ladder industry, employees are moved to different positions often, creating new gaps to fill and train.
Our expert panel will discuss the variety of tools available to find new employees, train and retain existing employees and to enhance your hiring efforts.
Deputy Secretary Georgia Maxwell brings more than two decades of public and private sector experience in senior management and public policy to her executive leadership role at the Department of Workforce Development(DWD) where she works to develop Wisconsin’s talent and move Wisconsin’s economy forward.
The DWD provides job services, training and employment assistance to people looking for work and also works with employers to find the necessary workers to fill current openings.
As the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) Career Pathways Education ConsultantRobin Kroyer-Kubicekleads the Academic and Career Planning and the Career Pathways projects promoting quality business-education partnerships and high school to post-secondary career programs and transitions.
Pathways Wisconsin is a regional approach to deliver high-quality career pathways in the state. The hospitality pathway helps students get the education and credentials they need to work in the field.
Dr. Lynea Lavoy serves as the Program Director and Full Time Instructor of Hospitality Management Program at Madison College. Her work includes building and maintaining community relations to increase student job placements in the hospitality industry.
Madison College’s Employment Success Program (ESP), WorkSmart Network, and Nontraditional Occupations/Tools for Tomorrow Program all help companies engage and recruita diverse pool of qualified candidates.
For More Information:    Visit our Conference Web Site

Contact the Potawatomi Hotel at 800-729-7244 or visit their website and enter the Group Code WHL11052017 to reserve a room in the Wisconsin Hotel & Lodging Room Block for the special rates of $107 single/double standard room and, plus applicable tribal, state and local taxes in effect at the time of check in. The deadline for the room block rate is October 13, 2017.

Full Conference Package with Sunday Reception – only $245
Monday/Tuesday Conference Package – only $215


Donating a lodging package to aWH&LA Bidding for Good Online Auction is a great way to reach new guests and support the WH&LA! Instead of a holiday auction, the Board of Directors decided to host a Fall Colors auction, so travelers can use their prizes to see our great state in the fall.

We hope that you will consider a donation of a lodging package! There is no cost to donate and your property will receive added exposure including:

  • Visibility to the Bidding for Good community on the “Enjoy Wisconsin” Auction page September 13-19, 2017.
  • A link to your website on the listings page.
  • Multiple photos on the details page.
  • Over 8,500 WisconsInn Getaways subscribers and all WH&LA members will be notified of the online auction and asked to share the link with family and friends.
  • Promotion of the auction and your property via Facebook & Twitter.
Click here to fill out the online donation form. Auction donations can be mailed to WH&LA at 1025 S. Moorland Rd. Ste. 200, Brookfield, WI 53005. If you have questions please call Monica at 262/782-2851 or email service@wisconsinlodging.org

Join the Wisconsin Hotel & Lodging Association at the annual Wisconsin Lodging Conference & Trade Show, November 5-7, 2017 at the Potawatomi Hotel & Casino in Milwaukee. Early bird registration opens on August 7th! Below are highlights of the programming -

Straight Talk on the Industry - Experienced industry leaders discuss timely issues impacting the lodging industry in Wisconsin. 

Safety and Security 2.0 - Back by popular demand, this safety and security session discusses challenges and prevention tactics to protect properties and guests. 

Lifelines for Addressing Worker Shortages - Our expert panel will discuss the variety of tools available to find new employees, train and retain existing employees and enhance your hiring efforts.  

Making the Most of Online Marketing - Our panel of experts will discuss how to leverage your online presence to power your identity and attract travelers.

Employment and Labor Law Update – an Insider’s Guide for Wisconsin Hospitality Employers - Gain information on current labor law developments, including the latest on overtime regulations, and how to protect your property from costly mistakes.  

Tools for Promoting Your Job Openings - Learn how to effectively advertising job openings to make the most of your time, effort and money.

Managing Your Online Reputation: The Role of Social Media - As lodging properties are dependent upon a quality reputation in order to attract and retain guests, learn how you can best customize your social media approach for your property. 

Why Will Your Company Culture Help You to Win the Talent War? Learn how to identify and cultivate a positive company culture to recruit and retain top talent and increase success. 

Keep an eye on the Wisconsin Hotel & Lodging Association Facebook page for more information on the sessions!

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 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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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 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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