July 5, 2017 – As the weather heats up, so do tourism and hospitality dollars. During the summer months, thousands of residents and visitors to Wisconsin attend one of the many fairs, concerts, or camp at a state park, take a cruise along Lake Michigan, fish on one of Wisconsin’s many small inland lakes, dine out, shop at local establishments, or rent a cabin in Door County or Wisconsin Dells.
And those are only a few of the numerous leisure activities available in Wisconsin’s summer. In fact, tourism’s economic impact in Wisconsin last year totaled $20 billion, up 3.5 percent from last year.
Travel Dangers and Risks
But vacations, travel, and catering to the leisure activities of the public can also be unpredictable. If you’ve ever been robbed, had an accident, or become seriously ill far from home, or if you’ve ever lost your luggage or discovered your flight is overbooked or canceled, then you’ve experienced one of the risks of travel and know the dangers. The incidents can also damage the reputation of those who work in the tourism and hospitality industry.
Genevieve Zook is the reference & instructional services librarian at the U.W. Law Library. She is currently chair of the Public Relations Committee and past president of the Law Librarians Association of Wisconsin, a chapter of the American Association of Law Libraries.
Lately, serious or deadly experiences while traveling have been reported in the news: a cruise ship sinks and several people drown; food poisoning is reported at a food catering establishment; carbon monoxide poisons several people at a hotel; an accident happens at an amusement park and someone is injured. Then there was the infamous public relations nightmare for United Airlines earlier this year, when overbooking led to the videotaped distress of a passenger, instantly posted on social media.
For the tourism industry, something as seemingly inconsequential as the lack of a support railing or adequately posted warning signs can lead to tragedy, as in the case of an alligator attack at Disneyworld’s premier resort, the Grand Floridian, that resulted in the death of a 2-year-old child. While there were signs posted to stay out of the water, the beach was not roped off. It is now, and the warning signs are more prominently displayed. It is a sad and tragic lesson.
Tourism, Hospitality, and the Law
The hospitality and tourism industry works best when it frequently evaluates and prepares to prevent these types of events – and that’s where the legal profession comes in.
Although tourism and hospitality laws have been around since the Middle Ages – to guard travelers from robbers, set standards for hospitality, and limit the liability of innkeepers – many states have adopted “innkeeper laws” based on English common law. As a legal specialty, tourism law has only developed over the past few decades.
It’s a broad legal specialty – encompassing hotels, convention centers, gaming, restaurants, airlines, spas, country clubs, cruise lines, and other travel and leisure industry establishments.
Legal professionals assist with a laundry list of legal issues: business contracts, licensing, liability, compliance, remedies, corporate responsibility standards, food safety, labor and employment contracts, finance, taxes, fees, and federal, state, and local regulations.
Clients also seek out litigation support from legal professionals for criminal acts against guests, including assaults and robberies. Litigation can also arise after an accidental drowning, riding accident, slip and fall, walking tour mishap, wrongful death suit, or transportation accident.
If that seems like a lot, consider that this specialty can also cover riparian rights, water safety, property development, and zoning ordinances. Even agricultural tourism has a part to play in this legal specialty. Wisconsin has an agricultural tourism law on the books to address this issue.
About the Online Research Resources
Although there is no set of hospitality and tourism laws, here are some resources. Pay particular attention to the research guide links and tourism organization links. They are a rich resource for online, sometimes free or low-cost information for the legal professional.
Beyond the legal resources, you’ll find tourism and hospitality resources available at Wisconsin campus libraries that include industry reports, statistic, finance, and news and periodical resource databases.
Tourism resources are also available from several Wisconsin libraries, including the Milwaukee Public Library, Marquette University Library, the library at the University of Wisconsin-Stout – which offers a B.S. degree in Hotel, Restaurant & Tourism Management – and University of Wisconsin-Madison campus libraries.
Links to Wisconsin Laws
Resources for Wisconsin Agencies
Sources for Research Guides on Travel and Tourism
Cornell University provides 20 guides under the topic Hospitality.
Wisconsin State Law Library: Gaming/gambling
Northern Virginia Community College: Hospitality Management and Travel and Tourism Websites
University of Wisconsin-Stout Library: Hospitality and Tourism Guide
University of Wisconsin Business Library: Business Databases. In the Business Guide, look for the subtopic “Industry Research & Marketing Research.”
See IBISWorld - Market research reports on over 700 different industries in the U.S., organized by NAICS code. The reports include key statistics, market segmentation, life cycle, regulation, market share, industry outlook, and more.
See Mintel Academic - In-depth reports from 2001-present that analyze market size and segmentation, consumer attitudes, and marketing strategies relative to hundreds of consumer products in the United States. Lifestyle reports such as “Green Marketing” and “Spending Habits of the Teen Consumer” are also available.
Two Types of Federal Laws
There are two types of federal laws to consider that affect the industry, one on pool safety and another that promotes the travel and hospitality industry of the United States as a whole.
Links to Federal Agencies
Where to Find Journals and Periodical Databases for Online Research
U.W. Law Library’s Index to Legal Periodicals – Research legal periodicals, court decisions, legislation, and more. Full text coverage for selected periodicals is also available. Law books are indexed beginning in 1993. Covers all areas of law from the United States and Commonwealth countries.
Hein Online – Full-text legal periodicals, historical texts, foreign and international materials, and primary legal materials in PDF, including the Federal Register, U.S. Statutes at Large, U.S. Reports and attorney general opinions, state session laws, and more. Available at the UW-Madison Campus Libraries.
Article by Jeffery Miller, “Hospitality Law,” in GPSolo Magazine, American Bar Association, April/May 2010
International Websites on Established Tourism Standards