From the pages of
Pinedale Roundup
Volume 105, Number 51 - December 18, 2008
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

County tourism revenue jumped in 2007

by Jonathan Van Dyke

Sublette County made about $50 million in 2007 because of leisure travel, according to the Economic Impacts of Travel in Wyoming study released by the Wyoming Division of Tourism.

“You guys have actually had the largest percentage increase in the state,” said Dave Hanks, vice chair of the Wyoming State Tourism Board.

Travelers spent $50.4 million in Sublette County over the course of last year, which amounted to a 10.1 percent increase from 2006. Overall, the county ranked 13th in the whole state.

While the county is still dominated by the energy industry, tourism has been growing heavily since the late 1990s.

“Sublette County, back in 1997, was only generating $19 million [from leisure travel],” Hanks said.

The county employs 510 fulltime employees related to travel and hospitality and the total direct taxes collected from direct traveling expenditures was $1.7 million.

“When people travel through they find out about those hidden treasures,” Hanks said.

In a survey of the most popular destinations and marketable trips in Wyoming, the Museum of the Mountain Man garnered 3 percent and the Bridger-Teton National Forest received 5 percent identification — large numbers for such isolated options.

“If you take that into context, that’s pretty good,” Hanks said.

He also pointed out the popularity of scenic drives (51 percent), wildlife viewing (39 percent), backpacking (21 percent), fishing (11 percent) and Hot Springs (17 percent) as significant — if less specific — draws for the county.

“You have all these things there,” Hanks said. “Tourism is a constant and tourism has continued to grow over the last 15 years in this state.”

Tourism has been important throughout the history of Sublette County, said Mindi Crabb, independent marketing consultant who previously worked with the county tourism board.

“We got tons of Google searches for Wind River Mountains,” she said. “The museum, from a pure attraction standpoint, has always been something asked about.”

A large gauge for the strength of tourism comes by the hotel rooms booked in the county. While 2007 was strong for bookings, the Log Cabin Motel has noticed a slight downturn in the spring and fall this year. However, that time is more dictated by energy development workers, owner Forest Wakefield said.

“The main summertime seemed to be just as busy,” he added. “There wasn’t a noticeable difference.”

He did note that more foreigners appeared to be popping up during the 2008 summer.

“It seems like Europeans are traveling,” Wakefield said. “I think that might be partially due to the strong euro.”

Whether the defeat of the lodging tax will hurt next year’s numbers will remain to be seen. The Economic Impacts of Travel in Wyoming is released almost a whole year after the fact, meaning 2009 data won’t be available until late 2010, when the lodging tax will more than likely go back on the ballot.

Hanks works at the Rock Springs Chamber of Commerce and noted that his city hears various radio ads funded by the tourism board — a possibility less likely after the tax’s defeat.

“You guys are going to be two years behind [because of the defeat of the lodging tax],” he said. “Most of the people down here recreate up there. In order to develop tourism it has to be a long-term, consistent program.”

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