La Crosse tourism leaders say economic outlook this summer looking better than expected

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – La Crosse tourism leaders say the region generated more than a quarter billion dollars in direct visitor spending in 2019.

Then tourism dollars tanked in 2020.

But the outlook this summer is looking better than expected.

Riverfest, Country Boom, Moon Tunes.

Those are just some of the regional festivals making a comeback in 2021.

“Festivals represent tens of millions of dollars in economic impact for us,” Explore La Crosse executive director A.J. Frels said.

Exactly how much money our fests bring in? That’s hard to pinpoint.

“We also see a lot of day-trippers that come in,” Frels said.

And a large chunk of those dollars are going to pour in during the summer months.

“We certainly anticipate a speedier recovery, if you will, than other areas,” Frels said.

Frels credits that to the unique place we live in.

“The outdoor activities that we have to offer is natural social distancing,” Frels said. “It comes naturally for us.”

The return of festivities will only help re-boost our economy.

“The vaccines have helped,” Downtown Mainstreet executive director Terry Bauer said. “So there’s a real optimism, a real energy in downtown.”

Something downtown businesses and our hotels have dearly missed.

“Businesses were off 30 to 40 percent of prior years,” Bauer said.

“We definitely took a hit last year with COVID,” Charmant general manager Michel Gabbud said.

But Gabbud says the hotel has been holding steady since the fall.

“We have a very unique building, unique staff, unique service,” Gabbud said.

And with music, fests and parties all coming back to their rightful home, bright, summer days lay ahead.

“These special events have been a driving force for us,” Gabbud said.

Frels says he expects it’s going to take two to three years for a full economic recovery in the region.