Klett is widely known across Wisconsin in the tourism industry. For 18 years she was the Emmy-winning host of the Discover Wisconsin Television and Radio series, where is still an occasional guest host, and in 2011 she assumed the role of head of the Wisconsin Department of Tourism.
While with the tourism department, Wisconsin’s tourism economy grew by nearly 40 percent, reaching total travel expenditures of $20.6 billion. During that time she also led the Department of Tourism to an unprecedented 125 regional, national and international awards for marketing and public relations.
Klett built a reputation for showcasing Wisconsin tourism businesses and promoting their value to visitors. The most successful campaign under her guidance focused on Wisconsin’s historic and popular supper-club dining, which included promotions ranging from an award-winning television commercial, to trucks wraps, and development of Travel Wisconsin Supper Club venues at Lambeau Field in Green Bay and the Kohl Center in Madison.
We connected with Klett just as she assumed her new role and here’s what she has to say about her exciting next chapter.
What will be your first two or three priorities in the new job?
My top priorities as President & CEO of VISIT Lake Geneva are to ensure that people know the incredible assets of this area. There are so many things about this region that make it truly unique. From its rich Native American history, the historic mansions built here because of the Chicago fire, beautiful lakes, one of the few remaining mail-boat tours in the country, a speak-easy and some of the best restaurants in the nation. It’s like opening a treasure chest and finding gold.
What do you think differentiates Lake Geneva as a tourist and meeting destination?
Lake Geneva is a world-class destination. It’s got everything you would expect from a top destination, like incredible golf and spas, beaches and a state park, but it goes above and beyond as a meeting destination. Inspiration is important for any meeting or convention, and you’ll find it here, in spades. Whether you need a venue large or small, you’ll be surrounded by views of a ski hill, hiking trail, forest, golf courses, lakes or a storied and charming downtown. There’s something about this area that will hit you in the heart, it’s really an intangible. Top that off with good, old-fashioned Wisconsin hospitality and you’ll feel right at home.
What general Wisconsin trend information or knowledge do you think will help drive your strategy in the new role with Lake Geneva?
Keeping up on the latest trends in tourism is a full-time job, but one thing that remains constant is providing outstanding customer service. You can have the greatest product in the world, but if you don’t care for your customers, anticipate their needs and give them your best, they will know. It’s a cliché, but true. You never get a second chance to make a first impression.
We stay ahead of the curve and have been focusing on wellness, health, adventure and green travel for years. What we keep top of mind is the crunch for time issue. People are so busy that when they finally get to their vacation or meeting, they want a quick check in, accommodations that go above and beyond and easy access to activities. We have that here.
What’s your favorite thing about the Lake Geneva area?
To ask what’s your favorite thing about the Lake Geneva area is tough, because it’s not just one thing. It’s the feel and atmosphere that draws you in. You know it when you experience it, yet verbalizing it can be difficult. I do love Geneva Lake itself. It’s a spring-fed, crystal-clear lake with excellent sailing, boating, tours, swimming, sandy beaches, surrounded by lush forest and stunning homes. Plus the lake shore path offers a 21-mile hike around that beautiful body of water where you walk past a piece of America’s history. It’s awesome.
Since you are a long-time Wisconsin resident and frequent visitor to the area, what changes have you seen over the years that have helped drive tourism?
The biggest change I have seen in the tourism industry here in Wisconsin, especially in the Lake Geneva area, is that we have embraced our winter season to really be a four-season destination. We no longer just stay indoors and gut it out. We enjoy winter at a whole new adventurous level. Did you know you can zipline here – in winter? Every year in downtown Lake Geneva there’s a winter festival with helicopter rides and hot air balloon excursions. Guests can rent a heated igloo and have cocktails and dinner with friends. The U.S. National Snowsculpting Championship is an annual event here featuring snow-artists from Alaska to Colorado to Vermont. They create works of art and love talking to visitors.
Any other fun anecdotes or something meeting planners should know?
Lake Geneva is a culinary dream. We are America’s Dairyland and because of that we were farm-to-table before it was hip. If you’re a foodie you’ll be back again and again.
I love when people discover this area for the first-time. Russell Crowe tweeted about it, and when I invited Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Robert Hayes and movie producers David & Jerry Zucker and Jim Abrahamson here to showcase our new television commercial, they were blown away by the area. It was so cool to see. As a former Secretary of Wisconsin Tourism, I have held numerous meetings and conventions in Lake Geneva and it was always a hit. They make you look great, and you can’t ask for much more than that.