Tourism bounces back as nation looks to travel

CASPER — Sales and use tax collections for Wyoming’s hospitality and leisure sectors experienced significant growth this summer compared to last year, state reports show. 

The state pulled in $3.2 million more in collections in June, and $5 million more in July, according to fact sheets published by the Economic Analysis Division. Both amount to about an 85-percent increase from last year. 

August’s tax income also blew past 2020 numbers, growing by $5.4 million for an increase of 66.1 percent. 

Notably, this amount also cleared August 2019’s total by about 26 percent. 

The hospitality and leisure sector includes everything from food and drink services to entertainment, lodging and tourism, all of which were hit especially hard from last year’s COVID-related shutdowns. 

Yellowstone National Park, for example, closed for roughly two months last year. 

That the industry has bounced back from 2020’s lows is not surprising — but a nationwide case of cabin fever could be driving up the swell, too. 

Wyoming has enjoyed an influx of tourists this year, particularly in the northwest region of the state. 

“There’s a lot of pent up demand from Americans spending the last year at home,” Diane Shober, executive director for the Wyoming Office of Tourism, told the Star-Tribune in July. 

Grand Teton and Yellowstone have reported record-breaking visitation numbers this year. Since January, Yellowstone has logged some 3.6 million visitors, up 40 percent from 2020 and 15 percent from 2019. Grand Teton, meanwhile, recorded more than 2.2 million visits from January to July, according to the National Park Service. 

The frenzy brought some 85,000 visitors into the Jackson Hole Airport in July, the News&Guide reported — the highest monthly tally in the airport’s history. 

Wyoming has also experienced significant increases in tourism in Laramie, Albany and Sublette counties this summer, Piper Singer, public relations and media manager for the Office of Tourism, said in an email. 

Tourism is one of Wyoming’s biggest businesses, and the state has taken steps to give it a boost this year. 

In April, the state received $2.5 million in federal CARES Act relief to pay for a tourism marketing campaign. 

Natrona County, also a destination for outdoor recreation, is among the grant’s beneficiaries. That same month, Visit Casper announced it would award $25,000 of the funds to help grow a new or existing business in hospitality or travel.