MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Tony Evers on Thursday named Anne Sayers as the state tourism secretary, a post she’s held as interim director since November.
Sayers replaced Sara Meaney who resigned from the post amid speculation that Republicans were going to fire her. Sayers had been deputy secretary under Meaney since 2019 when Evers took office.
Evers praised the job Sayers has done over the past nine months, saying she’s shown “steadfast dedication” to Wisconsin’s tourism industry.
Sayers’ appointment is subject to confirmation by the Republican-controlled state Senate. Her predecessor drew criticism from Republicans who accused Meaney of politicizing the tourism department.
Wisconsin’s tourism industry was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic last year. Direct tourism spending in Wisconsin was down 28.3% in 2020 to $9.8 billion, a loss of $3.8 billion. None of the state’s 72 counties saw an increase in visitor spending last year.
Tourism officials were hoping for a rebound this summer, but that was before the delta variant of the coronavirus led to a spike in new cases and increasing calls for caution and reduced travel. Experts said a full recovery for the state’s tourism industry may not occur until 2023 or 2024, when conventions and business travel return.