Tourism booming in La Crosse area

Officials estimate over $230 million spent in La Crosse in 2015

The Memorial Day weekend marks the beginning of the traditional tourism season for people across the country.

Many people are making La Crosse their destination, pouring millions of dollars into the local economy.

Officials say the tourism industry brought the La Crosse area more than $230 million in 2015 alone.

Officials said La Crosse draws people due to its natural beauty and variety of activities.

The La Crosse Queen has been a tradition for nearly 40 years.

“You get great scenery, you’re getting on an authentic paddle wheeler,” manager Kathy Jostad. “We’ve become a destination point here in La Crosse.”

On the weekend that traditionally starts the tourism season, this year is already looking strong

“Normally we are not quite this busy, but today we are sold out,” she said.

This longtime river boat adventure usually brings people in by the thousands.

“We get people as far as New Mexico, New York,” said Jostad. “Last year we carried close to 35,000 people.”

The La Crosse Queen is just one of many activities that take advantage of the Mississippi River and the outdoors.

“We have over a million visitors a year. We have over 70,000 people just use our great river state trail,” said Brent Hanifl, director of marketing and media at the La Crosse County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Local officials said the outdoors is a big part of La Crosse’s economy.

“Our biggest attraction are people looking for leisure activities,” said Hanifl. “About 78 percent of people come to Wisconsin are for the leisure market.”

That market is helping businesses that depend on the outdoors.

“We pretty much have six months to make or break. Just like any other business, we have expenses for 12 months, but when we operate for six months, we have to make sure we are ready to go and the boat is running every day,” said Jostad.

While people may come from across the country to enjoy this ride, the view is what gets people to come back.

“I don’t think we’d be as busy as we are if it wasn’t,” said Jostad.

Local officials expect the additional hotels in downtown La Crosse will also help bring more people to the area. With four new hotels, they estimate around 400 hotel rooms have been added to the area in the last year.