Big trips to a small town: La Crosse County tourism increases

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

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

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

Support from residents helps local stores stay running

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

Tourism also helps the entire city thrive.

“Tourism supported 38,000 jobs in La Crosse County alone,” said Explore La Crosse director A.J. Frels.

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

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

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

“That puts us at top ten out of the 72 counties statewide,” he said.

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

“We’re seeing a tremendous amount of leisure travel still, we are seeing the conventions coming back,” he said.

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

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

There is concern that high gas prices will prevent people from taking a road trip.

“It’s impacting all of us when we think about getting in the car and going down the road for whatever it may be,” Frels said, adding that he hopes visitors will continue to drive through the Coulee Region.

Explore La Crosse says the WIAA state track event was just the beginning of bringing back large conventions and events. Those are still not at the level they used to be pre-pandemic.

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