This week is National Tourism Week, and Wisconsin has a pretty big reason to celebrate it.
The state's seen a huge boom in the tourism industry, growing 4 percent in 2013. La Crosse County has grown slightly more, at 4.1 percent, with visitors bringing $214.4 million dollars into the area. Experts say that signals the industry's return to pre-recession levels.
Companies from around the Coulee Region are celebrating that success at today's Area Tourism Awards, where the La Crosse Area Visitors Bureau honored people who have helped to grow the industry here.
"It continues to show that our area is a destination for people for activities, for events, for festivals, for convention, so real solid, real positive numbers," said Dave Clements, executive director of the La Crosse Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.
There's no doubt that La Crosse County is a shining star for Wisconsin's tourism department -and there's no one better to explain why that is than an out-of-stater like Chris Roderique.
Roderique moved to La Crosse back in 1987, put down roots, took over Piggy's Restaurant and hasn't left since.
"I fell in love with the area," Roderique said. "When I got into town and saw everything they've had to offer, I stayed."'
Once you visit, it's not hard to fall in love with La Crosse- at least, that's what the Tourism Department is hoping.
"You have the human-powered trails, you have the Grandad Bluff, you have just these incredible biking experiences here," said Patrick Reinsma of the Wisconsin Department of Tourism, as he ticked off the countless attractions the area boasts.
Tourism in La Crosse County is truly skyrocketing. According to Clements, well over half a million visitors come to La Crosse - and that means for business for everyone in town.
"We're seeing it from hotels, we're seeing it from restaurants, from attractions, from museums," he said.
Roderique sees that business in Piggy's, especially during tourist season. He's the first to tell you the way to keep those numbers booming in La Crosse is to let people fall in love with the city, just like he did.
"Speaking from experience, if we get people into our region, they're going to love it," he said.
They're going to keep coming back. It's trickled down from the hotels to the restaurants to the retail shops, the convenience stores..."
"The more people we bring to our little part of the world, the better off we all are."