Soaring inflation, spiking gas prices drive renewed interest in Wisconsin resort communities

Soaring inflation, spiking gas prices drive renewed interest in Wisconsin resort communities

Karen Ann Cullotta
Chicago Tribune

A group of business owners gathered recently to discuss their fears of a summer of discontent for the local tourism industry due to soaring inflation rates and high gas prices.

A Lake Geneva native, former mayor and third generation restauranteur, Condos, understands their concerns. In the past few months, the cost of food and supplies to stock Speedo’s Harborside Pub & Grill has skyrocketed, making it harder to turn a profit.

After more than four decades in the restaurant business, Condos is certain the economic storms that have arrived this summer will reveal a silver lining for the Wisconsin resort community.

I told them that because of our proximity to Chicago and the high gas prices, many people are not going to travel that far in the summer.

The tourism industry is expected to get a boost this summer from travelers who paused their vacations during the first two summers of the COVID-19 outbreak.

With gas prices spiking to $6 a gallon, spiraling inflation, and worker shortages across the U.S., travelers and tourism businesses in Illinois and adjacent states will also be facing challenges this summer.

Despite the economic hardship, sectors of the local tourism industry are still benefiting from the sticker shock that has diverted budget-conscious travelers away from far- flung destinations and led them back to old-timey road trips closer to home.

“With gas prices so high, we’re seeing an increase in business this summer from families and couples who still want to vacation together, but realize they can drive a much shorter distance and still get a beautiful escape.”

The historic resort that was formerly known as Lake Lawn Lodge has found a solution to the nationwide seasonal employee shortage this summer by hiring nearly three dozen international college students from across the world via the U.S. Department of State.

The international students are spending 16 weeks working at Lake Lawn this summer in various jobs.

It would be nearly impossible to operate the resort this summer without these additional workers, and for the students, the best way to learn about the U.S. culture and language is working in a vacation destination.

Everything is going well this summer. The weekends and Fourth of July holiday are not the only ones where our bookings are strong.

The Fourth of July holiday weekend is predicted to see nearly 50 million people travel at least 50 miles from home, according to a recent report.

Despite historically high gas prices with 42 million people hitting the road, car travel will set a new record despite the increase of 3.7% over the next two years, according to officials.

The volume of travelers we expect to see over Independence Day is a sign that summer travel is kicking into high gear.

We started seeing a demand for travel increase earlier this year. People are ready for a break and are finding ways to still take that vacation even though it costs more.

Despite national average gas prices topping the $5 mark,AAA officials said car travel is expected to break previous records, suggesting that recent issues with air travel and ongoing concerns of cancellation and delays are driving this increase.

The percentage of people traveling by air will be the lowest since 2011.

While an increasing number of visitors were already returning to the water park in 2021, according to the chief operating officer of Wilderness Resorts and Waterparks in the Wisconsin Dells, the surge in popularity of the road trip this summer for Chicago-area residents is indicative.

It is getting hot out there, and our phones are ringing off the hook right now, thanks to the 450 international students who have been working this summer through the J-1 visa program.

A college student who is on a J-1 visa is spending her second summer working at Wilderness as an aquatic supervisor.

Berrocal’s housing in the Wisconsin Dells is subsidized by the resort and he wanted to do something different.

Berrocal Alvarez said that he will be able to bring his English skills back to his country and also know a different culture.

The president and CEO of the Wisconsin Dells Visitor & Convention Bureau said that the resort community is close to Chicago, Milwaukee and Minneapolis-St. Paul. It’s a good choice for families who want to take vacations closer to home.

Wisconsin Dells gets about 4 million visitors a year and will rely on about 4,000 J-1 international college students this summer to bolster the ranks of workers at the region’s plethora of resorts and water parks.

Even though gas prices have gone up in the past, we have not seen a decrease in visits.

Travelers who may have been planning a cross country trip now see us as a more economical vacation of choice.

The dining room of the historic DeSoto House Hotel was buzzing with guests attending a meeting Tuesday morning, a day of the week that is typically quiet in the hotel business.

We were busy the last couple of years during COVID because people were not flying, and they were looking for an outdoorsy kind of place where they could stay, away from crowds, and play golf.

This summer, Hocker expects tourism in this historic Illinois town to be better than it was last year.

With high gas prices, we are blessed with our location, because you can almost get here and back on a full tank.

The president and CEO of Visit Lake Geneva greeted tourists on a recent morning from the town’s cozy visitors center, where a promotional flyer proclaims: “One-Tank getaways: Five ideas for how to spend your summer in Lake Geneva.”

The summer will be the best on record. Even though fuel prices are high, Lake Geneva has become the Newport of the Midwest and the Hamptons of Chicago.

In the summer of 2022, the trend of vacationing closer to home was appealing to the Brown family who recently spent three days at the beach and other attractions in Lake Geneva.

The Brown’s went to the Bahamas last summer because they got a great deal.

She said that the household budget has been pinched by rising costs, including spending $400 to $600 a week on groceries.

Brown said, “We knew it was going to be expensive to fly somewhere, or take a major road trip this summer, and LakeGeneva has been just wonderful.”

The family spent two nights in a suite at The Cove in late June and went to the beach for the first time in over a decade.

Brown said that there are tons of things for families to do.

She said that the kids love getting ice cream at Scoops and Kilwins, as well as ordering alcohol free pina coladas at The Cove.


Fees that are sometimes called “facility fees” or “destination fees” cover internet and pool access. Hidden costs for booking a room that don’t appear until final checkout are what the fees act as.

According to Lauren Wolfe, counsel at Travelers Unite d,Resort fees are the only travel fees that have any correlation to any actual service or product. The founder of the website Kill Resort Fees is she. If you don’t own a car, you don’t pay to park. You can’t get out of hotel resort fees even if you decline amenities.

There are some tips to reduce these fees.

Points can be used to pay for award stays at brands that waive resort fees.

The front desk will waive the fee if you ask. Wolfe says that it is probably not likely to work.

There is a search option on a hotel website or app that will show the rate with taxes and fees. This will make it easier to compare real prices and avoid the hassle of clicking through to the final checkout windows.

Image by Engin Akyurt from Pixabay


The cost of airfare has been falling for a long time. That might sound like good news, but a hidden trend shows that airlines have been lowering the base price of airfare while increasing their revenue from add-on fees.

One of the newest tricks is to charge for a seat. During checkout, these fees are often mandatory.

The fees are usually avoidable. If you don’t mind the risk of getting stuck with a middle seat, then simply skipping the seat selection process and letting the airline assign a seat at a later date is the best choice.

Airlines often warn customers about the dangers of not picking a seat, and want customers to pay the fees. Seat selection does not increase your chances of being bumped from a flight.

Some airlines don’t charge for seat selection.

Image by JUNO KWON from Pixabay


Everyone wants a clean vacation rental but nobody wants to pay a lot of cleaning fees.

Most properties carry the fees, so it is almost impossible to avoid them. You can avoid paying too much.

Most vacation rental platforms offer an option to compare total price, which includes cleaning and other fees. It isn’t always easy to sort on total price, but seeing this price on the search screen can make comparison shopping much simpler.

Unlike resort fees which are usually added to every night booked, cleaning fees are applied once. For one night, a $100 cleaning fee might be intolerable, but for 10 it’s reasonable. The best way to avoid cleaning fees is usually to book a hotel.

Image by Tesa Robbins from Pixabay


The psychology of add-on fees is that we get lured in by the low sticker price, then grudgingly accept the extra costs.

Theory and practice can be used to counter the bias. Don’t compare final prices unless you take all fees into account. Avoid as many optional fees as possible.

Rick Bowmer

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