LA CROSSE, Wis. - Tourism is a $250-million-a-year industry in La Crosse.
Now, a newly launched institute at University of Wisconsin-La Crosse is intended to attract more tourism dollars to area businesses.
The Tourism Research Institute, launched by UW-La Crosse assistant professor Dan Plunkett, will soon conduct marketing and research on area businesses and organizations in the tourism industry.
They hope to provide answers on the biggest questions, like how to keep bringing tourists back to La Crosse.
Tourism is transforming downtown La Crosse.
"Last couple of years we've seen extreme growth in rooms in downtown La Crosse,” said Brent Hanifl of the La Crosse County Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Over 400-plus rooms have been developed down in that area."
But the growth of tourism in La Crosse brings its own challenges.
"You get these new visitors, you get these new developments, things start to change," Plunkett said.
That's why Plunkett, along with nine other faculty members at UW-La Crosse, is launching the Tourism Research Institute.
"It's a resource so organizations, such as the Convention and Visitor's Bureau, hotels, parks and recreation agencies, any type of organizations that see visitors outside the area coming to our area,” Plunkett said. “Oftentimes they want to be better able to understand those visitors so they can better accommodate their needs."
Plunkett and his team will be contracted by area businesses to conduct specifically targeted research for organizations and businesses.
"A hotel, for example, may want to better understand how service quality is impacting their guest experience,” Plunkett said.
Officials at the La Crosse County Convention and Visitors Bureau said it's a welcome addition.
"They might do a little study on their consumer. It might allow us to identify the right demographics that we would like to attract," Hanifl said.
Plunkett said it’s about getting people to come back to La Crosse, which he feels requires one thing.
"The best way to understand that and plan for the future is through research,” Plunkett said.
UW-L students will be a part of the institute as well.
Students will be a part of the research process, collecting data and providing research to each individual project.
Besides the initial startup costs, the institute will be paid by a company or organization to conduct tourism research for them.
If anyone is interested in learning more, you can contact Dan Plunkett at (608) 785-8204.
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