Dubuque hopes fall tourism makes up for spring's chilling effect - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Dubuque hopes fall tourism makes up for spring weather's chilling effect


For many cities, Labor Day marks the unofficial end to summer and tourism season, but Dubuque is looking forward to an uptick in visitors this fall.

Between leaf-lookers and upcoming conferences drawing in visitors, Dubuque may be in for a boost.

While it's been a fairly average year overall for Dubuque's tourism, numbers are down ever so slightly from last year, and leaders blame weather for part of that. A cold, wet spring kept away some people who would have otherwise visited the key city in May and June.

If Mother Nature plays nice this fall, however, the city may be able to make up for spring's chilling effect.

Andrea and Shane Herzberg brought their one-year-old son Gunner to the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium Friday afternoon. They were visiting from Evansdale.

"It's not that far of a drive from the Waterloo area, so we just figured it's something nice to do just for a day trip," Andrea Herzberg said, holding Gunner up to the aquarium to see the fish.

The museum's education director Mark Wagner said the types of visitors are changing this time of year, as kids head back to school and before the leaf-lookers emerge.

"Color is beautiful along the Mississippi River, and so even though we have a little bit of a lull after the summer, it usually picks up in later September and into the end of October," Wagner said. "We'll get a lot of people coming in not only on bus tours but boat tours."

He said the museum has seen about average attendance this summer, with one small snag. Low Mississippi River levels this summer kept some big tour boats from visiting the river

"Some of them could not pass the bridges further south on the river and could not come up here, so we were planning on them, they didn't come," Wagner said. "The good thing is, now the water is low and they will be coming up a little later this summer and into the fall."

Wagner said the museum hopes those make up for the unexpected drop in visitors earlier in the summer.

Keith Rahe, president of Dubuque's Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the average hotel occupancy rate for the year, through July, is less than a percent behind where it was last year, and last year was one of Dubuque's best for tourism. The rate last year was 57.1 percent, through the end of July. This year, that number is at 56.6 percent.

"We're doing okay. Is it as strong as last year? No, but these things ebb and flow," Rahe said. We're hoping that we're going to have a very strong September, October, November and it's going to bump those numbers even higher."

Despite May and June's weather keeping some people away, Rahe said this year's tourism numbers, while not as good as last year's, still top 2010's and several summers before that, too.

Whereas many cities' final tourism push comes Labor Day weekend, "Dubuque is different than that," Rahe said. "We stay strong all the way through just about to Thanksgiving, so that gives us a lot of optimism to get those numbers back up."

He said the city's strongest months are July, August, September and even October.

Several conventions this fall will bring visitors to Dubuque. Those include the National Association of State Park Directors - in town next week, a sustainability conference and the DockDogs world championships.

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