Diane Shober had an “Austin Powers” moment at the Wyoming Governor’s Tourism and Hospitality Conference in Cheyenne this week.
Shober, executive director for the Wyoming Office of Tourism, was going over the stats from 2022, and at one point it just slipped out: One-point-two BILLION dollars!
She was talking about the economic impact of an extra 1 million visitors brought to Wyoming thanks to advertising the state does to attract more tourism to Wyoming.
“I sound like Austin Powers,” she said, referencing the popular 1990s Mike Myers movie character Dr. Evil, who likes to dramatically outline his nefarious demands as wanting “One MILLION dollars!”
Advertising, Shober’s charts showed, added three times the visitors to tourism numbers, which worked out to a little more than 1 million additional influenced trips in 2022.
“It’s true there would be a base of travel if none of us spent any money on marketing,” she said. “People would still be here, but are we willing to give up that incremental number of influence trips? Over a million influence trips that are directly a result of the marketing campaign deployed by the Wyoming Office of Tourism.”
Those additional visitors spent $1.21 billion, while the advertising dollars spent to attract them was just $3.6 million. That math works out to a $13.50 return on every dollar spent, Shober said.
Top Of The List
Shober, if she has her way, will have Wyoming at the top of everyone’s travel wish list this year.
She’s been promoting a social media campaign, the National Plan Your Vacation Day, which is always the last Tuesday of January.
“I hope all of you are joining in all of your channels, your social media, about elevating the National Plan For Vacation Day,” she said.
Underneath that overarching goal to grow tourism statewide, Shober also has smaller goals and objectives. Among these is an effort to increase travel-generated spending.
“We also want to increase overnights and target areas of the state,” she said. “And by saying target areas of the state, these are areas that maybe are lesser-known areas, lesser-known regions where there’s opportunity to actually really move the meter on the visitor economy.”
Marketing data has been consulted to tease out exactly where a little push here or there can most readily move Wyoming travel upward. That data has helped show that Wyoming has “a lot of great places and hidden gems,” Shober said.
The Office of Tourism is working to re-establish international marketing efforts as well, to bring that back to pre-COVID-19 levels.
In fact, a member of the team was not at the conference just for that purpose. That person was instead in Mexico, working on travel relations.
“Data is to marketing what location is to real estate,” Shober said. “And it really is true that, you know, if you can use more facts and figures to help guide the strategic decisions, the better the result will be.”
Visits Down, Spending Up
While visits to Wyoming were down year over year in 2022, visitors spent more, Shober said. Sales were an overall 2% higher than the previous year.
“That’s really the direction you want to go right,” she said. “If you’re going to have fewer visitors, you want to have visitors who have a higher spend.”
With gas more expensive, fuel sales were a little lower as well. That fueled a 5% drop in tax revenues, which Shober said totaled $240 million from an overall $4.3 billion in revenue.
“That is in goods and services going into cash registers and into bank accounts of Wyoming businesses and services,” she said.
Part of that money funds Wyoming Office of Tourism operations and its initiatives to improve tourism throughout the state, while the rest goes directly back to the communities where that tourism happened for community operation and improvement.
Jobs Also On The Mend
Travel-generated jobs, meanwhile, were up 6%.
“Governor Gordon referenced this last night: 33,070 jobs,” Shober said. “The largest private sector employer in the state of Wyoming. These are jobs that are not easily outsourced. This is a people industry, a labor-intensive industry.”
Workforce shortages do continue, Shober acknowledged, but the rebound is welcome.
“Look at the wages,” she said, adding there was “$1.2 billion in wages that went out to Wyoming residents working in our industry.”
She believes that should help dispel any myth that these are all low-paying, dead-end jobs.
“It’s an important part of our overall economic fiber and why this industry is so vital to our state,” she said.
Future Is Looking Bright
A modern explorer’s campaign is coming soon, along with a new and more personalized app for trip planning, Shober said.
The explorer’s campaign will highlight personal stories of inspiring Wyomingites who are doing great things in their state.
The Office of Tourism will be working with Wyoming counties on how to use a new data interface that provides county-level details and stats about tourism to help them elevate their own campaigns.
The state is entering into a new partnership with Ford Motor Co., which Shober believes is really going to show the Cowboy State in a fresh and exciting light to the world.
“Three teams take on five challenges that highlight the unique landscapes, wildlife and people of Wyoming,” Shober said. “The challenges will pair Wyoming’s unrelenting landscape and educate viewers on what it means to be a modern explorer.”