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Wyoming Commercial Flights See Boom In 2021

in News/Travel

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Air travel boomed at small Wyoming airports in 2021 after a bleak 2020.

Both Yellowstone Regional Airport in Cody and Central Wyoming Regional Airport in Riverton reported huge increases in passenger numbers in 2021. Fremont County’s commercial service exceeded 15,000 passenger boardings for the first time in 13 years, totaling 15,121.

Central Wyoming Regional Airport administrators reported that in the last twenty years, only calendar years 2007 (15,559) and 2008 (16,847) saw recorded more commercial boardings than 2021.  

Yellowstone Regional Airport in Cody saw an 82% increase in passengers in 2021 as compared to the previous year to total 37,346, according to airport Manager Aaron Buck. 

“And then if you compare (2021) to 2019 — which, 2019 was a really good year for us still, because COVID hadn’t really started yet — we’re only down 9%, which is pretty good compared to the national average,” he said.

Because the area is a big draw for tourists, the number of people flying in and out of Cody is an indication of a good year for the economy and a bright spot in an otherwise challenging year for the airport, which included a number of COVID-related flight cancellations the last week of December.

“The week after Christmas wasn’t so great with all the cancellations,” Buck said. “Again, that goes back to the same crew shortages and pilot shortages that are felt at Delta, and United is feeling now as well, in having to cancel some flights.”

United Airlines has the statewide contract for air service to smaller communities in the state, according to Tim Bradshaw, the new administrator for Cheyenne Regional Airport.

“We all fly SkyWest Airlines with United,” he explained. “It’s all part of a state program with the Wyoming Aeronautics Commission.”

Cheyenne’s flights have just recently resumed after traffic was shut down for runway construction during most of 2021. But Bradshaw acknowledged that after the difficult year that was 2020, people are certainly eager to travel again.

“People are back to flying,” he said. “They are not so much business travelers, but more of the leisure travelers. There’s just a lot of pent up demand.”

Kyle Butterfield, Fremont County’s public works director and airport manager, pointed out that the record-setting numbers at Riverton’s airport were a significant accomplishment for the community.

“Thanks to the investment and dedication of our partners through the years, we have finally returned to the level of service we knew was possible in Fremont County,” he said. 

And those numbers actually translate to funding for Riverton’s air service. When passenger boardings exceed 10,000 in a calendar year, airports become eligible for $1 million in federal Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funds for infrastructure projects. 

Central Wyoming Regional Airport reached the threshold of 10,000 boardings for the first time in eight years on Sept. 16, 2021.The latter part of 2021 was record-setting for Cody’s air service as well, according to Buck.

“Actually, this November and December are our best November and December in the last three years,” he said. “Even better than 2019 or 2018, which is way pre-COVID.”

But the industry is still recovering from the pandemic.

“I know that nationwide, traffic is still not back to pre pandemic levels,” said Bradshaw. “And the majority of people flying now are still just leisure travelers, a lot of the corporate fliers have not returned to flying yet.”

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Report: Wyoming’s Travel Spending Declined By 23% In 2020

in News/Travel
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Spending related to traveling in Wyoming declined by 23% in 2020 compared to 2019 due to the pandemic, the Wyoming Office of Tourism recently concluded.

The office published its annual travel economic report this week, which totaled around 150 pages. The research was compiled by Oregon-based company Dean Runyon Associates.

Although travel spending in the state dropped by more than $90 billion in 2020 — from $3.96 billion in 2019 to $3.05 billion in 2020 — that 23% decline was actually smaller than the national average of a drop of 36%, the study said.

Meanwhile, payroll related to travel spending was down down by 9.3% in 2020, with $935 million coming in last year.

Along with the drop in payroll, Wyoming also saw a loss of 4,000 jobs in the travel industry, a decline of 12.1%. The largest number of job losses occurred within the accommodations and food services sector, which lost 2,900 travel-related jobs.

Taxes generated by travel spending dropped by by 21.4% compared to 2019. Local taxes declined by 21.8%, while state taxes were cut by 21%.

Overnight visitor volume declined 25.8%, going from 9.3 million trips to 6.9 million trips last year.

Taxable lodging sales for hotels, motels and short-term rentals declined by 25.1% last year, dipping below 2015 levels.

The largest loss occurred in gasoline, with $228 million being lost in 2020.

Campgrounds saw the least amount of travel decline, with a 15.8% dip last year.

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Wyoming Ranked One of the Top Places to Travel in 2021

in Travel/Travel Wyoming

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Travel Wyoming, the state’s tourism office, is “honored” to have been chosen as one of the top 50 places to travel in 2021 by Travel + Leisure magazine.

The magazine placed Wyoming at No. 50 apparently because its writers believe in saving the best for last. The entry about Wyoming in the magazine praised the small population, Wyoming’s beautiful state parks, the rodeos and much more.

“No one could have dreamed up a better marketing plan for Wyoming than social distancing,” the magazine said. “The country’s least-populated state has only six people per square mile, meaning it’s not only easy, but natural to stay safely apart.”

Piper Singer, spokeswoman for Travel Wyoming, told Cowboy State Daily it was an honor for the state to be placed among the magazine’s top 50 destinations and that visitors should thoughtfully consider that when making their travel plans this year.

“We know Wyoming will be on a lot of travelers’ minds this year as we saw the revival of the ‘Great American road trip’ this past summer as folks looked to explore the outdoors,” Singer said. “While Wyoming may be best known for our iconic national parks, some of the greatest outdoor experiences can be found in some of the lesser-known areas, including our 12 state parks, eight forests and hundreds of miles of hiking and biking trails.”

Singer urged visitors to be mindful of their impact on public lands, maintain a safe distance when viewing wildlife and visit the state’s lesser known attractions.

“We also encourage visitors to expand their trip route and explore the many hidden gems of Wyoming, which are often found in small towns all across the state,” she said.

Some of the other locations on the top 50 list included the U.S. National Parks (of which Wyoming has two), the Rocky Mountains (which Wyoming is near) and Denver’s Lower Highlands (LoHi) neighborhood, which is also near Wyoming.

Basically, the article is telling you to visit Wyoming, which is the best message we can ask for.

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Travelers From Wyoming Required To Quarantine In 15 States

in News/Travel/Coronavirus
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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming residents visiting 15 states and Washington, D.C. are being asked to keep to themselves for two weeks.

But don’t take it personally. Wyoming is in good company, sharing the distinction with many other states that have have a relatively high number of coronavirus cases.

For instance, Connecticut is requiring that visitors from 36 states quarantine for 14 days after their arrival. Maine’s list is longer, covering 44 states including Wyoming.

Nine states require visitors from selected other states to quarantine for 14 days: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont, Hawaii and Alaska.

The number of states identified as high-risk range from 34 in Rhode Island to Maine’s 44.Washington, D.C. is requiring visitors from 39 states to quarantine.

Vermont’s rules do not apply to visitors from specific states. Instead, its quarantine rules apply to anyone from a state with more than 400 active cases per 1 million residents. As of Monday, Wyoming had 2,458 active coronavirus cases, about 4,220 cases per 1 million.

Alaska and Hawaii have both adopted quarantine requirements that cover visitors from every other state in the nation.

A number of other states are just asking visitors from some states to stay off the streets for 14 days. Those include Kentucky, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Kentucky is asking those from Wyoming and 10 other states to self-quarantine, New Hampshire’s request applies to anyone coming from states outside of New England. Visitors to New Jersey from Wyoming and 35 other states are asked to keep to themselves, while Pennsylvania identifies visitors from 25 states including Wyoming as candidates for quarantine.

But those looking for an option to staying locked inside a motel room do have an out — some of the states will accept a negative result from a coronavirus test taken with 72 hours of arrival within their borders as proof that the traveler is not contagious.

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Yellowstone Sees 25% Drop In Visitors

in Yellowstone/News/Travel/Coronavirus

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Yellowstone National Park is seeing a dip in visitors this summer due to the coronavirus pandemic.

For the week of June 11-16, the park saw 39,361 vehicles come through, 13,092 through the Wyoming entrances and 26,269 through the Montana ones.

This was a drop compared to 2019, when the park saw 52,320 vehicles over the same week.

Tourism is vitally important to local economies in the area. A new National Park Service (NPS) report shows that 4 million people to Yellowstone in 2019 spent $507 million in communities near the park. 

That spending supported 7,000 jobs in the local area and had a cumulative benefit to the local economy of $642 million.

“The positive economic impacts of Yellowstone are essential to economies of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho,” Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly said. “It is important that we continue working with our state and local partners to balance the many benefits of tourism with our continued efforts to protect the world-class resources within the park.”  

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Enzi Proposes Raising National Park Fees

in News/Recreation/Travel

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Entrance fees for the country’s national parks must be raised to pay for the backlog of maintenance projects at those parks, according to U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi.

Enzi has unveiled his proposed amendment to the Great American Outdoors Act, which aims to address the maintenance backlog at parks at a cost of about $12 billion.

Simply appropriating money to complete the maintenance projects would amount to a “one-time fix that is neither responsible nor permanent,” he said during his comments in support of his amendment.

He added that his amendment would address the backlog responsibly and permanently without adding to the nation’s debt.

“Without some changes, this legislation will force our country to borrow more money, burying us deeper in debt, and only provide funding for five years,” Enzi said earlier this week. “Fixing this bill will help ensure we no longer have to put our parks’ current obligations on the backs of future generations.”

Enzi’s amendment would increase fees for foreign visitors entering the United States. According to the U.S. Travel Association, nearly 40% of people who travel to the country from abroad are visiting one national park, amounting to more than 14 million people.

The amendment would also raise entrance fees for U.S. citizens by $5 and the cost for annual passes by $20, to a total of $100.

Enzi emphasized that bringing a vehicle into a park would still be cheaper than taking a family of four to a movie or visiting an amusement park for a day.

“No one likes to pay more for things, especially during times like these, but to maintain these national treasures for future generations, we either borrow money and put it on the national credit card or we take some modest steps to address the issues responsibly.”

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Out-Of-State Visitors Flock To Wyoming Parks

in News/Recreation/Travel/Coronavirus

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By Mari Heithoff, Cowboy State Daily

As the warm weather returns to Wyoming, so does its annual influx of tourists. 

And although the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the nation’s way of life, Wyoming’s tourist season is well underway.

A brief stroll through Lander City Park and the main campground in Sinks Canyon State Park reveals crowds of of vans, pop-up campers, RVs, and SUVs, many of them sporting license plates from such far-flung states as California, Tennessee, Washington, Texas, and Iowa, as well as from neighboring states such as Colorado and Utah. 

Ann and James Yearout of Chickamauga, Georgia, were drawn to Wyoming by its natural beauty.

“We’ve been to Wyoming many times,” said Ann. “Cody is my favorite place, but we also love Jackson, and of course, Yellowstone.” 

The couple said their plans were not greatly impacted by the coronavirus. Their daughter, Julia, was interning at Sinks Canyon with Wyoming State Parks and Cultural Resources division through the Student Conservation Association, and a Wyoming trip was on the books for the spring.

“We had to wait to see if everything would open back up, of course, but we weren’t too worried about it,” said Ann, who works at an infectious disease clinic in Chattanooga, Tennessee. 

“We tend toward more remote activities and areas when we come out here, and so there’s plenty of opportunity for social distancing in the backcountry,” she continued. “We come out here to go on remote hikes—we want to get away from crowds.”

The couple said although they had never been to Sinks Canyon before, they were happy to have stopped on their way to Cody. 

“I have friends that ask me why I’d want to come out here, and when I get out here, I always wonder how they could ask that,” said Ann. “I mean, why wouldn’t you? It’s so peaceful and absolutely beautiful.”

According to Augie Castorena, who volunteers as a host at the main Sinks Canyon campground, visitors this season have been diverse and plentiful.

“In mid-May, everybody was out here,” he said. “Like opening the floodgates. There have been lots of out-of-state plates, lots from New York.” 

Castorena explained that the campground has reopened in stages.

Originally, it was completely closed. It then reopened for in-state campers with reservations, and finally out-of-state campers were allowed back in to camp. 

The State Parks and Cultural Resources division has instituted measures designed to help control any possible spread of the virus, such as extra cleaning and reservations for campsites, but Castorena emphasized that much of the responsibility rests with the visitors themselves.

“We ask visitors to please practice safe distancing,” he said. “We’re not trying to be rude, we just want to keep you safe. It seems like a lot of visitors forget to be mindful when they’re out here.”

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C.J. Box Thanks Wyoming Citizens For Prodding Legislature to Approve Lodging Tax

in News/Travel/Coronavirus

New York Times bestselling author and Wyoming native C.J. Box on Friday thanked Wyoming citizens for convincing the Wyoming Legislature to approve a 5% statewide lodging tax.

In an email from the Wyoming Office of Tourism, Box said the new tax will “usher in a new era” for tourism in Wyoming.

“Although it was a very hard-fought battle and the legislation is far from perfect, it should allow for increased funding for our state and the excellent team led by [Tourism Office Executive Director] Diane Shober.

Box, the newly-installed Chairman of the Wyoming Office of Tourism Board of Directors, said passage of the new tax was a significant achievement for Wyoming’s second largest industry and largest employer.

“Gov. Gordon identified the new bill as the only tax he would support is further proof of our clout and importance,” he said. “Feel free to take a bow.”

Box has been prolific during the pandemic urging citizens on social media channels to support local businesses like restaurants by using curbside service.

“We want to do our part in keeping local restaurants open so we order curbside meals every night and tip generously,” he said in a YouTube video.

As for the prospects of Wyoming tourism during the pandemic, Shober, in an interview with Cowboy State Daily on Thursday, was cautiously optimistic stating that it was too early to tell if the pandemic would significantly impact tourism.

“This summer will be critical,” she said. “This is an export economy. People coming here from other places helps offset our revenues across our cities, counties and state.” 

Polls have shown the pandemic took a significant toll on the public’s desire to travel this summer, but a month or more of staying at home could change that, she said.

Travel Wyoming: Wyoming History On Ice In Store For Cheyenne Visitors

in Travel/Travel Wyoming/Column

A depiction of Wyoming historical highlights on ice awaits people who visit Cheyenne’s Ice and Events Center this weekend.

On Saturday, the center’s 23 ice skating students will put on their annual performance, this year titled “Skating Through Wyoming: A Historical Ice Skating Musical.”

“It’s kind of a yearly thing we do to show off what the skaters have learned in the year,” said Taylor Bassett, the Ice and Events Center’s program and event coordinator. “The coaches thought that because of the historic events Wyoming celebrated this year and last year, we would do some Wyoming things and then make it more musical and theatrical.”

The center’s students, ranging in age from 4 to 18, will take part in performances depicting important points in Wyoming’s history, such as women winning the right to vote.

The students at the center, which is involved in the national “Learn to Skate” program, will perform in groups, as duos and as soloists in putting on the show, Bassett said.

“We’re starting from the beginning, with Native Americans and the history with them and working our way up to more modern day stuff,” she said.

Similar programs are held each year as the center nears the end of its ice season, Bassett said.

Doors at the Ice and Events Center will open for the performance at 6 p.m., with the show scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. Admission is $5.

For more information, visit Cheyenne’s events page at

Travel Wyoming: Western Wyoming Sportsman’s Expo in Rock Springs

in Travel

A plethora of items designed to make the great outdoors even greater will be on display this weekend in Rock Springs.

The Western Wyoming Sportsman’s Expo will be held Friday through Sunday at the Sweetwater Events Complex.

The expo, now in its fifth year, features vendors showing good such as off-road vehicles, boats and campers, along with fishing and hunting equipment, cookware and camping equipment.

“We also have some western decor,” said Debi Knezovich, whose company Wyoming Home Show is putting on the expo. “There will also be some antler jewelry. It’s not just ATVs and campers and guns and knives.”

Kenzovich has put on other shows throughout the year in Rock Springs, such as the Wyoming Home Show and Home and Holiday Show, for 24 years.

The Sportsman’s Expo came about as recognition of what people do for fun in the state, Knezovich said.

“It’s kind of our lifestyle up in this area and that’s why we live in Wyoming,” she said.

In addition to the equipment and gear on display, several outfitters from Alaska and Canada will be attending the expo, Knezovich said.

“So if you want to plan a hunting trip, there will be outfitters on-site to answer those questions,” she said.

Booths with groups offering educational information will also be set up, as will a “mini golf course” where people can test golfing equipment.

The expo runs from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.

For more information, visit the event’s website at

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