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Governor's tourism conference this week



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February 25, 2014 | 04:53 PM
Innkeepers, restaurateurs, tourism officials and hospitality professionals from around the state will gather at Grand Geneva March 2 to 4 for the annual Wisconsin’s Governor’s Conference on Tourism.

Lisa Marshall, Department of Tourism communications director, said local hospitality professionals are encouraged to attend the conference to learn industry news.

“It’s really a profound opportunity for learning about how the state is promoting tourism and networking with others,” Marshall said. “There will also be educational and entertaining parts of the conference.”

State Tourism Secretary Stephanie Klett said in a statement that the conference will help attendees grow their businesses.

“This year’s conference will be nothing short of incredible, with top notch speakers providing insight and tools that can immediately be implemented by our industry partners,” Klett said.

Along with Klett, Gov. Scott Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch will speak at the conference.

As part of the conference, Klett will preview the tourism department’s 2014 TV ad campaign.

The three 30-second ads, directed by David Zucker, Jerry Zucker and Jim Abrahams, star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Robert Hays, from the movie “Airplane!” back in the original movie set cockpit.

Both the Zuckers and Abrahams are Wisconsin natives. Filming the commercials was the first time Abdul-Jabbar and Hays were reunited since the original film.

Marshall expects about 1,000 attendees for the event, from across the state.

“We have people coming from Bayfield,” she said. “They’re driving five hours for this conference. It’s a really big deal in the tourism industry.”

Marshall said the conference was last held in Lake Geneva in 2008.

“Next year, we’ll be in La Crosse,” she said. “We won’t be back in Lake Geneva for a while. This is a great chance for professionals in the Lake Geneva area to come to the conference.”

The conference will have an economic impact on the city as well. Marshall said on March 3, all the attendees “converge” on the city’s restaurants.

“That could be a big impact,” she said. “A thousand people going to your restaurants on one night.”

Eric Whitacre, composer, and Robert Lynch, president of Americans for the Arts, will both speak at the conference.

During the conference, attendees can also choose from several break-out sessions: art in tourism, Wisconsin culinary artists, highway signage and tourism trends to expect this year.

On Monday, Green Bay Packers wide-receiver Jordy Nelson will be at the Grand Geneva, signing autographs and talking about his tourism commercials.

At the close of the conference, Gov. Walker will present the tourism awards, which recognize people and organizations that impact Wisconsin’s tourism industry.

To learn more about the conference or to register, go to www.wigcot.org.

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