By ANASTASIA PENCHI

Looking to attract visitors to your community? Your business? Your special event?

The La Crosse Regional Tourism Expo is designed to help attendants do just that by offering information, speakers and opportunities to network with people who do this professionally.

Tourism is important because it results in money. Visitors come to attend a special event, and then they stay in nearby hotels. They eat in local restaurants. They shop at nearby businesses. They purchase gas for their vehicles. Ultimately, it provides money to businesses and communities, and jobs for local residents.

That’s why every person or business who would like to learn more about the tourism tricks of the trade are invited to attend this free event on December 1st.

Here are five reasons you should attend:

1. Wisconsin has been discovered.

I’m sure you’ve probably heard the phrase, “Discover Wisconsin.” It’s actually a longstanding TV show (since 1987) dedicated to Wisconsin tourism, which was created as a public-private partnership. Discover Wisconsin Radio was also launched in 1993. You may have seen a show about your community on Wisconsin Public Television or heard about an event on Wisconsin Public Radio thanks to the Discover people. That means that others have seen and heard about it, too. Greg Smith, managing director of Discover Wisconsin, is the keynote speaker during this expo, and since that entity has almost 30 years of experience under its belt, officials there have probably learned a thing or two.

2. Fly La Crosse’s friendly skies.

The La Crosse Regional Airport is the best because it is so convenient. Instead of checking in hours before your flight leaves and standing in line forever (like you do in larger airports), you can take your time getting there and still make your flight. Learn how our airport affects the strength of the community and how we can get more flight options and destinations added here. While I’m not sure if airport officials will support my idea to add direct flights to Jamaica every February, it never hurts to ask.

3. Learn about our water trails.

Water trails are not related to the trails that crawling babies leave as they cross the living room wearing cheap diapers. Instead, they have to do with rivers and creeks. La Crosse County (and a lot of other nearby counties) has lots of water, so it makes sense to try and capitalize on this resource. Some entities do this well – think organized canoe trips and such – but more could be done. Connect with other people who have interest and experience in this area. Could a water trail be added to your community event? Is there a way your business could connect with water trail users? Come find out, and I promise you won’t have to change any dirty diapers while you’re there.

4. Generate some groups.

Traveling to new places can be very rewarding, and it’s often easiest when you do it with a group. Group tour businesses do all the work for you – they decide what you should do, they get you the tickets and they take care of the transportation. It’s a no-brainer for tourists who don’t like doing the research and prefer just being dropped off at the front door of something fabulous. Apparently, there are some very simple steps communities can take to better accommodate group tours when planning festivals or events. Learn the secrets of group travel here.

5. You could advertise in this spot.

Explore La Crosse is serves all communities in La Crosse County (and beyond), and wants to promote all things tourism. This past year, officials created a “River of Festivals” campaign, which included 24 festivals. This resulted in the collection of more than 40,000 email addresses that will be used in upcoming years to promote special events. Want to tap into that wealth of people interested in the Coulee Region? Find out how by attending this event.

To register for this free tourism extravaganza, (and yes, registration is requested), visit the Web site at www.explorelacrosse.com/expo.