Review of 2017 Wisconsin Governor’s Conference on Tourism

2017 is off with a bang and one of the fun events that the hospitality industry looks forward to each spring is the Wisconsin Governor’s Conference on Tourism. Here is a brief review of what we learned and experienced at this year’s conference. This year the conference was held at the Potawatomi Hotel and Casino, and per usual, was a great success. If you are new to the hospitality and tourism industry be sure to join us next year for the annual WIGCOT event, hosted in Appleton, where you can network and learn about the great opportunities ahead in our exciting industry.

What is WIGCOT?

WIGCOT, or the Wisconsin Governor’s Conference on Tourism, is an event where industry professionals meet over a three-day period to network and learn about the opportunities and important news that is facing the hospitality and tourism industry. TheWIGCOT attendees conference welcomes tourism educators, agency professionals, innkeepers, restaurateurs, and other representatives of the tourism and hospitality industry to come together for a statewide networking event. WIGCOT is an event that takes place before
the National Travel and Tourism Week, a week where tourism and hospitality professionals come together to showcase the importance of our industry to the United States economy and to build connections and educational resources for the tourism and hospitality industry. The conference is a phenomenal way to make connections and to gear up for National Travel and Tourism Week, a very exciting week in our line of work!

WIGCOT Overview

This year the Wisconsin Governor’s Conference on Tourism saw nearly 1,000 participants from locally operated restaurants to agency professionals and the like. The discussions this year at the conference centered on creating stories for the consumer to enjoy and turning these stories into experiences. The discussion focused on social media and using this digital media channel to create and to tell a story that will appeal to your target market. Sharing stories and experiences with guests is what makes hospitality shine, and something that we suggest you implement into your marketing practices this year!

Also at the conference, there was in-depth discussion regarding the new way of advertising on social media. Carousel Lynn and Green Bay Packer Ice Sculptureadvertisements are the new in thing in the world of advertising on social media. Carousel ads are advertisements that are grouped together to provide multiple impressions through various images and forms of media. We are most commonly seeing these forms of advertising on Facebook and Instagram, where posts are published, and the audience can view a small collection, or album, of media. This is something that is highly recommended to boost your social media for your business!

WIGCOT also presented great information on training employees and the laws that have changed this year, necessary information for all of us to know! The Division of Employment and Training discussed how to effectively use tools to aid in recruiting and training employees to maximize profitability for your business. For more information on our tips and tricks that help in growing careers in the hospitality industry, please visit our blog Staffing the Hospitality Industry in Wisconsin – What You Need to Know in 2017.

Staffing the Hospitality Industry in Wisconsin – What You Need to Know in 2017

Employers are facing a dilemma that speaks to the tourism and hospitality industry in Wisconsin loud and clear. Many of you may have been affected or experienced difficulties with staffing or maintaining staff, and you’re not alone. Employers across the state are finding it difficult to fill open positions in their companies because of the lack of available workers. Why might that be? The Taxpayers Alliance projects that by 2040 Wisconsin will see an increase of 300,000 residents within the working age. This number does not consider the generations that are moving towards retirement or the younger generations that are seeking employment in other states or regions.

How does this affect the tourism and hospitality industry in Wisconsin ?

The state is currently seeing many individuals moving out of the hospitality industry as the economy gains back strength after the recession that occurred nearly a decade ago. Hospitality during the recession was seen as an industry that fulfilled many jobs for new college graduates who were unable to find careers in their degree industry. Now as the economy shows growth and stability these individuals are finding that their experience and degrees are allowing them to explore new avenues that are not in the hospitality or tourism industry. The industry already sees seasonal shortages when J-1 Visa participants leave the United States after contributing to the hospitality workforce creating an even deeper problem for hoteliers.

Who is Being Hired?

The Institute of Hospitality found that in the hospitality industry, the people who are being employed within the ages of 18-24 are either working on a college degree or choosing a career path instead of a degree. This information is crucial for hoteliers to consider when staffing. The lodging industry in Wisconsin has some great options to help appeal to this age group. The first option is to understand the great value in providing internships within your company. Internships allow for companies to bring in new eager applicants and then to form their skills specifically to the needs of the business. Providing internship or apprenticeship opportunities is a cost efficient way for hoteliers to staff their businesses and to create learning opportunities that pertain to the hospitality industry, something that is needed for the industry to develop a strong workforce.

How can we maintain the employees we have? Rupesh Patel, CEO and hotel owner, shares some of his most helpful hints that he uses to keep his hotel staff motivated. The first big-ticket item is relating to your sales staff. Patel said, “One of the primary reasons why a lot of hotel employees resign is because they feel stuck, that they’re not growing or evolving in their jobs.” Job vs. Career Diagram
This falls back on the employer more than the employee. Employers need to understand that motivation is key! Maintaining employees is even more powerful than hiring employees. Motivating the staff at your hotels and resorts with career growth opportunities will help your employees see a future in the industry.

How Can We Help?

The most repetitive aspect that is being seen in the hospitality industry is the need for furthering the education of those who work in the hospitality industry or who show interest in the industry. For those starting out in hospitality, motivation and career opportunities are needed for an employee to stay for a sufficient amount of time. Doing so requires training and development of the employees. Creating new opportunities through internships will allow for the industry to gain exposure for job seekers and will educate people with hands on experience. Industry analysts are finding that the most successful hotels are those who invest time and training to further educate their employees; something everyone can benefit from! The graphic below provides one of many examples of how training and development can excel the careers of individuals in the hospitality industry.

Infographic on workforce


2016 Wisconsin Lodging Conference

The 2016 Wisconsin Lodging Conference is right around the corner – November 6th through the 8th! It will take place in Oshkosh, at the Best Western Premier Waterfront Hotel. This year’s session topics will include the impact and strategy of combatting Airbnb and short-term rentals, finding and securing the proper workforce, and the ever-popular marketing to the Millennial. All of these topics are very relevant to today’s emerging challenges in the lodging and tourism world.

Oshkosh Wisconsin

My favorite aspect of the lodging conference is the ability to catch up with my lodging friends and also to meet new people. Unfortunately, I will be out of the country this year and will miss the opportunity to see and visit with you there. Kit Sorenson, the Tourism Development Consultant, will be representing Social Energizer, LLC., and will be attending in my place. I invite you to drop Kit an email at and schedule a time to meet.

Over the past few years, Social Energizer has expanded our services to include Tourism Marketing for small to mid-size communities. We work with tourism commissions as their Marketing agency to build local brands and to guide them in investing their room tax dollars for the best return. Our long-term approach and seasoned perspective will help guide your tourism destination through the years to come!

We have recently helped Mauston build a brand for their community and have helped them position themselves to become a tourist destination in the future. Ask us how we did that!


Google Trips – Organize Your Travel Easily

Google is continuously coming out with new technologies that make communication and organization easier and more convenient. Being organized and having a plan is vital to productivity in the workplace and when traveling, too. Enter Google Trips.

In mid September, Google launched a new travel app called Google Trips, which helps the everyday traveler and business professional alike when they are away from home. The app focuses on planning and organization, something that is right up my alley and something I needed to try.

I downloaded the app on my iPhone and it prompted me to sign in to my Gmail account. The next thing I know, a reservation popped up in my Google Trips app for an upcoming trip that I had planned. Google developed the new app to work with Gmail, taking any reservations from your inbox and putting them into your trip-planning app, pretty convenient and so easy to setup!

After downloading the app, I was playing around with the different tiles and instantly noticed what a great business opportunity was available for hoteliers and business establishments in towns big and small. The app is set up to plan activities for the area that you are visiting, taking any information from Google and incorporating it into your stay. For businesses that don’t understand the need to promote themselves through Google services like Google My Business this app is a great reason to get listed! Don’t have a Google My Business account? Check out our earlier blog, Independent Hotel and Resort Google Guide, on how and why you will want to set one up!

Just by being on Google, the app creates endless exposure for small and large businesses, here is an example.

After I checked in at the hotel and stopped at my room, I needed to find somewhere to eat. The only problem I had was that I hadn’t been to the area before and I wasn’t sure of what places were open or for that matter what was around me. I opened Google Trips and clicked on the food and drink tile to see what my options were. In just two seconds there were tons of places to go, all organized and categorized to make my search easier. Each recommendation has reviews and the hours of operGoogle Trips Mapation with a brief description of what you can expect for the environment and for the food.

I chose a local restaurant that I hadn’t heard of before to support local businesses instead of chains. While I waited for my meal, I picked out a café for coffee that next morning and I planned a few other restaurants that I wanted to visit before going home. The app allows you to “star” or save places that you enjoyed, or that you know you want to visit while on your trip. I added the café and a few restaurants to my saved places and then browsed around in the things to do tile.

In a matter of minutes, Google Trips provided me with tons of different local restaurants and café options. This was just one tile, the app allows you to look at local activities, shopping centers, small family owned and operated stores, you name it. Google Trips is just one benefit of promoting businesses on Google My Business. It will allow businesses to gain exposure and to increase traffic and business by bringing out of town guests to your establishment.

Understanding OTA Logic

chart1For hotel and lodging owners, understanding OTA (online travel agency) logic, can be confusing and overwhelming. When it comes to choosing a position and strategic use of an OTA, you must first decide which customer segment you would like to reach. Understanding how OTAs work and what demographics each reach, will help you choose the OTA that will target the right demographic for your specific property. For instance, guarantees upscale and global preference, while Expedia/ focuses on affordable choices and are strongest in the US. Each can be the right choice depending on your lodging’s personality and target market.

The biggest mistake new hotel and lodging owners make, is assuming brokers will do everything to sell your property when in reality, your property is put into a sales pipeline and pretty much left on auto-pilot. OTA’s will tell you that they want to maximize income, but they won’t necessarily dedicate efforts to sell or position your hotel. Make sure to understand each specific OTA’s logic.

In general, the standard logic is this formula:

  • Expected Profit = (Number of Reservations x Average Selling Price x % of Commissions) – Acquisition Costs

But as a hotel or lodging owner, we see:

  • Number of Reservations = Number of Queries x Conversion Rate – Cancellations

With this formula, we can determine that the number of reservations depend on three factors,

  • How often the hotel is searched online
  • What the conversion rate is
  • How many reservations are realized (If a check-in does not occur, usually does not get paid)

Conversion Rate is the most important factor, as it can be linked to all other elements whether directly or indirectly. Conversion Rates depend on the following

  • The content
  • Comments
  • A better price
  • A larger inventory
  • Average selling price
  • Commission percentage

The OTA results also depend on brand positioning. The criteria for brand positioning usually depends on the following:

  • Comments
  • Photos
  • Cancellation policies
  • Increasing availability

Choosing an OTA can be confusing and what they say they are doing or going to do can always be depended upon. Waiting for your representative to respond and/or make changes can be exasperating. However, using multiple OTA’s will tend to give you the best outcome. chart2

*Further details on this topic can be found at “

Membership Benefits At WH&LA

PrintFor new lodging property owners, one of the best actions you can take is to join a supporting hospitality association. WH&LA, aka. Wisconsin Hotel & Lodging Association, is the likely choice for resorts and hotel owners of Wisconsin. Starting as low as $175, independent property owners will find countless resources, support and a network of lodging owners just like themselves.

Here are some of the membership benefits at WH&LA.

  • Publications
    • Industry news
    • Quarterly magazine – Inn Touch
    • Weekly newsletter and blog
  • Information, resources & how to save money
    • Benchmarking data
    • Answers to tax questions
    • ADR data with regional occupancy info
    • Lodging industry resource guide
  • Marketing
    • Wisconsin Lodging Directory
    • Web and mobile friendly (
    • “Featured Properties” section
    • “WisconsINN Getaways” email program
    • Marketing Concierge Program- professional assistance from local agencies
  • Legislation2014 WH&LA board members
    • Federal Representation
      • Partner with AH&LA (American Hotel and Lodging Association)
      • WH&LA representatives
      • In Washington D.C.
    • State Representation
      • WH&LA advocates in Madison
      • Room tax
      • Unlicensed properties
      • Labor issues
      • Health care
    • Legal Information
      • Free preliminary legal advice
      • Electronic employment compliance manual


Starting at:

  • 1-10 Rooms – WH&LA membership only – $175
  • 11-50 Rooms – WH&LA membership only – $230
  • 51-500 Rooms – WH&LA membership only – $5.25 per room

Vacation Homes – WH&LA up to 2 listings in the Directory and 3 city locations listed at site – $400

  • 1 extra listing – $150
  • 2 extra listings – $300
  • 3 extra listings -$450


*Disclaimer*  Social Energizer is proudly affiliated with WH&LA as an Associate Member, Committee Member and partner in the Marketing Concierge program.

Wisconsin Innkeepers to Attend Governor’s Conference

lacrosseWIGCOT (Wisconsin Governor Conference on Tourism) is an annual 3-day education and networking event for Wisconsin innkeepers, restaurateurs, community tourism officials, tourism attraction operators, state agency officials, tourism educators, and more. The event offers many breakout sessions that are very educational. WIGCOT is held March 15-17 this year in LaCrosse. If you are not already registered, it will cost $275.00 for the 3 days or $140.00 for a day registration. You also have the option of going to the Governor’s Award Dinner and that will cost $60.00. Here is an overview of a few of the break out sessions that would be beneficial for hotel and lodging owners.
The Multicultural Marketing Session with Lauren Banks covers how the multicultural market represents one of the most powerful growth opportunities for the industry. The session will help you gain a competitive edge with the most brand-loyal consumers in America.
There is a session called Technology Trends Changing Consumer Behavior with Kyle Lacy. This session will show you the technology trends and how they affect the industry. For instance, Uber has announced a valuation of $10 billion without owning a single bed, bath, or room. They also have 1 million customers per month.
There has been a recent spike in security breaches. There is a session called Data Privacy and Security for Businesses that will cover the Wisconsin data breach notification law; what it’s about and what is covered under the law. The session also covers how to minimize your customers information being at risk.
Art of Social Media Marketing with Kyle Lacy is a trendy session that will show you how to effectively use social media. He’ll cover the do’s and don’ts of using social media, how to integrate social media into your marketing strategy and which networks work best. Attendees will learn how to use social media to build an engaged community.scott-walker
Another session that would be beneficial is Data Driven Marketing Decisions: Understanding Your Visitor. It shows you how to tailor the consumers marketing messages to attract them to your business. The session also shows the best practices in info gathering and how to use the information to make data driven marketing decisions.
The conference does offer many more breakout sessions that may be more specific for your particular business. For a full list of breakout sessions offered and schedule, you may find that information at:

Cool New Way to Manage Projects in a Hotel

Looking for an easy, effective and forever-FREE way to manage projects in a hotel or resort?trello logo

Introducing! A project management tool that works great for lodging owners, managers and small business owners as well as their employees.

What can you do with Trello?

You can:

Track and manage your maintenance tickets
Use for tracking projects in the office
Assign tasks to employees
Schedule vendors
Sound helpful? That’s just a few quick ideas. Here’s how it works…

Using “boards,” “cards,” and “checklists,” Trello makes organization easy.trello on mobile

“Boards” are how you would break up topics. Under each board, you have Cards. Each card has lists that can be checked off and can both be moved around within your board to show progress.

As a business owner, using Trello, you can assign tasks that need to be completed to your employees along with a due date. The due date will turn yellow when there are 24 hours until your task is to be completed. The task will turn red if you exceed your due date.

You can also watch the progress of the task as it is being completed, by watching the activity log. The activity log can be seen overall or by a specific member. As an employee you may tag other members in your activities for help. The other member will receive a notification via email. The Trello app is available for both Android and Iphone, making it available to you wherever you are. Or available for PCs or Macs, just by logging in a computer’s browser.

Trello also has a color coding feature. Though the colors are limited, you can color code using multiple colors on one task depending on how you are organizing your tasks.

Trello also allows the attachment of files that may be displayed at the “card” level, which is the main screen you see when you open Trello. One may also subscribe to a specific board that you are not assigned to which allows you to see the activity on that board or card.

So keep track of the countless things you do each day and keep everyone organized with!



Digital Assets for Lodging – Keeping Your Guest Data Forever

Understanding Digital Assets for Lodging

Lodging professionals are often frustrated when shopping for new Hotel Property Management Systems (PMS). Vetting the many systems can be very trying, but working through a checklist as described in this earlier blog can help you find the right system for your properties’ needs.

Is it a plot against you or merely limitations in technology? Well, it can be a mix of both.Hotel PMS puzzle

Technology Limitations

It wasn’t too long ago that a 1 Mb photo was unheard of except in high-end brand settings like for advertising and printing. Now it’s commonplace. Data requirements are the same. Lots of data equals lots of storage space and in the past saving it all has been very costly. The good news is that with today’s technology it is getting more affordable and easier to manage.

But it could also be a plot…

Many PMS companies deliberately randomize the files on export, so data is virtually unusable. Why would they do that, you ask? To keep you at their mercy! It acts as a hindrance for clients that may not be entirely happy with their PMS technology partner. It’s a black hat method that works on a majority of their more complacent, non-technological customers.

Due diligence

Before you buy or subscribe to any system, do some due diligence and ask any potential new PMS providers how they export all info (be specific about what fields you need and want to export). Ask them to demonstrate how you can do the export and then examine the files after export. When opened (usually in Excel via .csv file) do the records all align in proper rows and columns? If not, call them on it. Then find out if they can import ‘everything’.

Some Caveats

It is common to have ‘guest profile’ info export into one file and ‘past reservation’ info export into a different file. And even if you want ALL your info, realize that due to PCI compliance, for example, there may be some reasons that info is not ALL transferred (like credit card numbers). Many good PMS vendors will import guest profiles, but draw the line at importing ALL reservation data. It’s a COST versus NEED dilemma. Do you really need ALL the info? Or would it just be a ‘nice to have’ kind of thing? If you insist, then are you willing to pay for it?

No matter which PMS company you choose, realize that moving is not an easy or inexpensive process. Being a PMS hopper will not help your bottom line. Take your time, talk to professionals and do your due diligence so you end up with a PMS and a technology partner that helps your business thrive for years to come.

Independent Hotel and Resort Google Guide

Google is always changing things up, which has created the need for this “Independent Hotel and Resort Google Guide”. Last year, Google announced that many of their services are now offered as ‘Google My Business’. This group of integrated services is vital for independent hotels and resorts, and now, it’s a bit easier to navigate, too.


If you have previously used Google Places for Business or Google+ Pages dashboard to manage your business information, you will notice that your account has been automatically upgraded to the ‘Google My Business’ dashboard. Navigation is a bit different, so take a few minutes to learn the new lay out. There are online pop-ups that will help you through it.

Let’s walk through some of the commonly asked questions and comments that I have received from property owner’s and hospitality employees, whom I coach regarding Inbound Marketing development, including all things Google.

1. “I can’t afford Google.”

Actually, the list of services I’ll explore in this article are all FREE. Yes, Google may try to persuade you into using paid services like Google Adwords, but don’t be fooled into subscribing unless that is something you want to do.

2. “So what does My Google Business include and what do these tools do?”

Once you have a Google account you will be have access to all of these services through one dashboard. Setting them up and integrating them is up to you.

Gmail stacks and organizes conversations into threads for easy reading while storing an ample amount of email (10+ Gb).  Customizing folders and labels allow you to logically and visually organize email.

Gmail can be setup with your domain –example It also has the ability (in Chrome browser) to add certain apps like Yesware to make routine correspondence, like welcome letters to your guests easier, essentially automating these tasks. All this with thorough malware, virus checking and excellent spam handling features.


Google Local (formerly Places) is one of the most important placements that any business can subscribe to. It provides a snapshot of your hotel or resort that appears in Google Search & Maps. It also provides great SEO (Search Engine Optimization) opportunities. As Google tries to compete in the travel market, the guest reviews listed in Google Local receive as much persuasive power as TripAdvisor reviews do. Don’t forget to add 10-15 of your top photos as well. Pictures sell.

Google+ Is Google’s answer to Facebook. As Google moves resources to more fully support this feature do not expect it to go away anytime soon. For hoteliers, using Google+ links to/from your website is a great way of establishing reputable links that search engines value when crawling. If you’re using Gmail, it is a great way of connecting with past guests via a one-click ‘add to circles’ to increase your repeat guest rate and to seamlessly stay in touch.

Google Analytics tracks your website traffic and inbound marketing efforts. It allows you to follow demographic metrics like geographic location of your guests. For anyone that spends any time with online marketing, it is a must-have and is the source that many paid analytics companies use. Why pay for it when you can get it first-hand for free?

Webmaster Tools is a tool that reports on your website ‘health’ like sitemap performance and crawl errors. It will uncover important SEO issues like ‘duplicate content’. If you do not manage your website yourself, be sure that your web developer is monitoring this important tool. I recommend starting a Gmail account for your web tools and analytics and asking your web professional to add this Gmail to your Webmaster Tools and Analytics accounts. That way you will avoid losing access to it for a variety of reasons. Doing this will also make these reports available to you directly.

3. “Why does my business need Google?”

Small ‘Indie’ hotels and resorts need every advantage to compete in the ever-changing hospitality world. Make no mistake, no matter how stable your ‘local’ lodging property is today, attracting new guests and keeping the old ones will depend on having a farther reach and better communication. The most affordable way to do this is through online marketing efforts that include these free Google services.

4. “How do I sign up?”

Go to and click on the ‘Get on Google’ button.

Allow yourself ample time for setup of the various services. If you have an ‘intern’ or assistant ask them to do the initial opening of services and work together to add content and optimize your pages to meet your business goals. I suggest completing them systematically, maybe one a week until they’re complete. Then revisit them as needed. Keep track of what you’ve signed up for and when.

Good luck! Let me know if you’ve found these services to be easy to setup and beneficial to your business. I’d love to hear from you at Lynn @

Social Energizer provides attractive, Responsive Mobile-ready web design with a focus on crafting healthy, over-achieving websites for hospitality clients. Hands-on guidance building operational infrastructures includes help with website booking engines, property management system (PMS), online credit card acceptance, and GDS/OTA integrations. Our focus is for independent resorts and hoteliers to systematically keep costs down and increase profits. Assistance and training in SEO, analytics, Google Adwords campaigns, reputation management, sales source tracking, and social media (aka inbound marketing) are just a few more of the challenges we help hospitality teams tackle.

This article originally appeared in the Wisconsin Hotel & Lodging Association’s InnTouch magazine’s Summer 2014 edition. I’d like to thank them for the opportunity of reaching out to local innkeepers. I often recommend this very professional Association, run by a very small, but diligent team. Their focus on the welfare of the hospitality industry and the travel business in Wisconsin is vital and they are to be applauded for all they do. 

Thanks Lynn