More hotels means more money for area tourism

By the end of 2016, there could be four new hotels in downtown La Crosse, eight hotels total within a mile of one another.

Tourism is one of the most important economic resources in Wisconsin and in the Coulee Region.

The groups designed to promote tourism rely on room tax revenue generated by hotels in the area. That’s how they fund nearly all their expenses to promote tourism in the Coulee Region.

But will adding hotels in La Crosse take away some of that funding from say Onalaska or Holmen? Local tourism officials said no, especially if they’re all working together.

“It’s going to obviously benefit everybody,” said Onalaska Mayor Joe Chilsen.

Chilsen said it doesn’t really matter whether there are more hotels in La Crosse or Onalaska, because if you’re not from the area, you probably don’t know where one city ends and the other begins.

“People are going to stay in La Crosse, eat in Onalaska, or stay in Onalaska, eat in Holmen, they’re going to be all over the county,” Chilsen said.

And that’s why La Crosse, Onalaska, Homen, West Salem and the town of Campbell are trying to pool their tourism efforts into a collaborative one. Not only would it save money, it would generate more.

“Well, if we become one agency, that one agency will be the pot that we’re pouring all the money into. So yes, as far as the collaboration goes, more room tax dollars collected by those four hotels helps us all,” Chilsen said.

Having more hotels will also allow more opportunity to attract bigger conventions to the area, creating more room tax dollars.

“I can think of a couple convention groups right now that have told us, ‘You don’t have enough rooms downtown, you don’t have enough rooms in your market, build some more hotels and we’ll come to La Crosse,'” said Dave Clements, executive director of the La Crosse Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“These four hotels in La Crosse are just going to make it a better area to come and visit,” Chilsen said.

Chilsen said the Door County area is a successful example of tourism collaboration. He said there are 19 communities pooling their tourism resources together and that is what he hopes the La Crosse County area is able to do.

The mayors of La Crosse and Onalaska are in the process of finishing a report to give to a tourism collaboration board about the benefits of a merger.