Milwaukee’s 2015 Occupancy and What It Means

Sean Skellie

2016 marks a year of significant reinvestment in the city of Milwaukee — a new direction for the Shops of Grand Avenue, a new Milwaukee Bucks Stadium, The Lakefront Gateway (Plaza) Project, and numerous other development projects on the pipeline. It is an exciting time to be sure, and for many types of businesses downtown, it inspires dreams of increased revenue from the traveling consumer. It may come as a surprise to many that while so many of these projects position Milwaukee to gain an increase in travel business, 2016 has already been an incredibly prosperous year for hotels in the downtown Milwaukee market. Despite the fact that 2016 has been a very successful year for the industry in general, it poses the question: Has the renaissance that sparked more than 10 years ago begun to make an impact on the amount of visitors the city has? It seems so, and it looks like that continued growth of downtown will keep bringing in more and more overnight visitors to the area.

The Numbers We’re Seeing So Far

The city of Milwaukee boasts 16,518 rooms dispersed thought the greater downtown area with an additional 851 rooms under construction and 659 currently in pre-development stages. While that seems like a lot of potential for business, the number that’s striking is that of those almost 17,000 rooms, 74% were occupied with travelers in the year of 2015 according to STR reporting data. The industry average was recorded at 65% for 2015, indicating Milwaukee has a sizable advantage. In the month of January 2016, one of the industry’s slowest periods, the city of Milwaukee achieved a 62.8% in occupancy. This strong of a number so early in the year is another clue that 2016 is looking like our most lucrative travel year yet.

The average daily rate of these rooms comes out to $134.64, a strong number, but one that needs improvement. In a time where the industry is not only strong, but occupancy is high, we as operators need to continue to push rate. Ultimately, hoteliers will only help each other by responding to the increase in demand.

What Can We Expect From 2016 and Our Tips for Travel

The general consensus from hospitality professionals is that 2016 is going to be a very strong year, and in the city of Milwaukee, this will definitely continue to ring true. So what does this mean for those visiting Milwaukee this year? Book well in advance. For dates that include Summerfest or popular athletic events, the old adage rings true: the early bird gets the worm. During these busy dates, we would also encourage you to pre-book directly with the hotel, rather than through an online travel agency site such as Expedia or, where you won’t see much in terms of savings as a result of hotels making sure to effectively manage their revenue. We would also encourage leisure travelers to plan more mid-week trips if they are able, when rates are lower but plenty of local events still take place, such as Jazz in the Park. In addition, small businesses should create relationships with hotels and vice versa to encourage local transactions and give the traveling consumer an experience they’ll want to repeat.