UWL study shows Coulee Region tourism fared better than many other communities during pandemic

Researchers cite outdoor appeal as the main reason

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – UW-La Crosse researchers say that Coulee Region tourism has fared better than many other communities during the pandemic.

That reason is the outdoor appeal the area has.

The region still lost a lot of money and visitors last year, but the number of outdoor activities the area provides kept the local economy afloat, the researchers say.

A team of UWL researchers, in collaboration with Explore La Crosse, conducted three studies from May of last year to May of this year.

One of the questions in all of the studies asked people what would bring them to the La Crosse area.

A graduate assistant who helped with the study says the majority of people come to the region because there is plenty to do.

“Every single time, the most populous response was outdoor recreation, which I think stands to the area,” UWL graduate assistant Ben Wittig said. “The Coulee Region in itself is just built on beautiful, geological features. And Grandad Bluff is one of the beautiful views in Wisconsin in my opinion.”

Associate professor Daniel Plunkett, who also helped with the study, says he found that the La Crosse area is a driving destination.

And last year, many people chose to drive instead of fly.

“La Crosse as a drive market tends to target the Minneapolis area, the Chicago area, everywhere in between,” Plunkett said. “So, when people were looking for opportunities whatever they might be, they were looking to drive there for them. And that kept La Crosse as a place in their mind where they can still feel like they can travel to safely.”

Hotels and other business throughout the area are starting to rebound, but not quite back to where they were before COVID-19, the researchers discovered.

A report by the Wisconsin Policy Forum shows that, between 2019 and 2020, state parks stickers sales rose by more than 42 percent.

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