Northwest Wyoming Tourism Season A Mixed Bag

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Cody is one of four gateway communities leading into Yellowstone National Park. 

As such, tourism is one of the top industries in Park County – and this summer was a mixed bag for the businesses that depend on visitors.

Claudia Wade, the executive director of the Park County Travel Council, pointed out that public health regulations imposed to limit the spread of coronavirus heavily impacted many businesses that rely on tourism.

“I think a lot of the restrictions that we had in Wyoming from the governor impacted our restaurants,” Wade reported. “And it impacted how our attractions operate, in the number of people they let through.” 

Dan Miller has headlined a cowboy music show in Cody for the last 16 years – and he said this year was devastating.

“I’d say we lost in the neighborhood of 90 tour buses that we didn’t get to have this year,” Miller noted. “And I don’t care who you are, you can’t take that kind of a hit and not say it doesn’t affect your bottom line.” 

Wade said outdoor recreation opportunities were hugely popular.

That popularity translated to record late-season visitation numbers for Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, which both saw records set for September visitation. Campgrounds in the region also saw high visitation numbers once the facilities opened.

But restaurants and hotels got off to a very slow start this summer.

Fran and Ken Swope own and operate the Carter Mountain Motel, which Fran and her mother built in the late 1960s. Fran said this summer was unlike anything she’s ever experienced.

“We had a lot of cancellations for May, June and part of July,” she recalled. “For August, we were just a little above last year. For September, we’re gonna be just about the same because September got busy.”

Many restaurants, on the other hand, went from zero to 60 from the time they were told they could reopen in mid-May. 

Nathan Kardos, owner of the Trailhead Restaurant, said he and his fellow restaurateurs were remarkably busy, despite the regulations that forced them to space out their tables, or move them outdoors.  

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