No Democratic convention hotels for Madison

In what is being construed as a missed opportunity at best, and an example of political tone deafness at its worst, the Democratic National Convention’s list of state-delegation hotels does not include any Madison hotels but it does include more than two dozen hotels in communities that are part of metropolitan Chicago.

According to a report in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 31 state delegations will stay in the Milwaukee area, and 26 will stay in northern Illinois, meaning that Racine and Kenosha also were shut out. Milwaukee is the host city for the 2020 DNC, which will be held at the Fiserv Forum.

So, instead of placing some 80 miles away in the state’s Capital city, the convention organizers instead opted for a roughly equal distance away in northern Illinois. For a political party that is trying to win back Wisconsin after Donald Trump won the state in stunning fashion, could some of the bloom be off the convention rose?

One hospitality official who expected some state delegations to be based in the Madison area expressed surprise but also states that Madison could still see commercial activity from the convention, which is set for next July 13-16. Kristine Hillmer, president of the Wisconsin Restaurant Association, says state delegations are but one part of the estimated 50,000 convention visitors expected to visit Wisconsin.

“They are only a small part of the overall convention,” Hillmer notes. “When you add in media, corporate groups, special interest groups, etcetera, the impact will still be vast and will extend broader towards Madison.

“I was surprised, though, that almost half are in Illinois when there are more hotels within 45 minutes of downtown Milwaukee, that are closer that Lake County, Illinois and Rosemont, which is next to O’Hare.”

Deb Archer, president and CEO of Destination Madison, has taken a realistic approach to the DNC’s potential economic impact on Madison, noting that most of the benefits accrue to the host city. However, in a statement released on Friday, she echoed Hillmer’s comments that Madison hotels will still have opportunities to host visitors.

“Destination Madison has been in communication with the DNC and their housing company since Milwaukee was announced as the host city in March,” Archer states. “At their request, several Madison and Dane County hotels have room blocks set aside for potential use by DNC attendees next July. While the DNC has announced where the state delegations will stay, there are still thousands of other attendees who will need rooms. We will continue to work with the DNC and their housing company to assist with accommodations as needed.”