La Crosse County Tourism Grows

LA CROSSE (WKBT) – Warmer weather means travel, road trips and sightseeing. Summer is big business. Businesses rely on revenue from tourists who come to La Crosse to enjoy a ball of heaven.

In a small town, small businesses are the heart of the community.

“There’s a lot of love and pride there,” said Azia Peterslie, manager of the Pearl Ice Cream Parlor.

Resident support helps local stores keep running

“When you’re a small business, every little bit counts,” Peterslie said.

Tourism also helps the whole city to thrive.

“Tourism has supported 38,000 jobs in La Crosse County alone,” said AJ Frels, director of Explore La Crosse.

During the pandemic, communities like La Crosse have struggled to attract visitors.

“Really the first half of 2021, tourism was non-existent,” Frels said.

But in the second half of 2021, tourism surged. Visitors to La Crosse County spent $262 million in just six months.

“That puts us in the top ten of 72 counties in the state,” he said.

La Crosse’s walkable neighborhoods, nature and convention centers have helped attract visitors, Frels said.

“We’re still seeing an awful lot of leisure travel, we’re seeing conventions coming back,” he said.

Pearl Ice Cream Parlor is a popular tourist spot. Peterslie said, noting that it depends on people coming to town and big events.

“Most of the time that money stays locally and is spent here,” Peterslie said.

There are fears that high gas prices will prevent people from taking a road trip.

“It affects us all when we think about getting in the car and going down the road for anything,” Frels said, adding that he hopes visitors will continue to pass through the Coulee area.

Explore La Crosse says the WIAA state track event was just the start of the return of major conventions and events. These are still not at the level they were before the pandemic.

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