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Tourists endorse vacations to Cody, Yellowstone Park

Visitors who were surveyed this summer gave the area a thumbs up. This father and daughter appeared to be enjoying their trip at Yellowstone Lake in June. Visitors who were surveyed this summer gave the area a thumbs up. This father and daughter appeared to be enjoying their trip at Yellowstone Lake in June. Tribune file photo by Ilene Olson

Local promotional efforts appear to be panning out. Tourists questioned this summer unanimously advocated visiting Yellowstone National Park and Park County.

Of 1,579 people canvassed in Cody and Yellowstone between June and September, 100 percent said they’d recommend the trip to others. The survey was contracted by the Park County Travel Council and prepared by Dr. Norma Nickerson of the Institute of Tourism and Recreation Research at the University of Montana-Missoula.

The last survey was in 2005, said Claudia Wade, director of the travel council. Since then, the council and its partners have invested more in marketing the area.

Visitor satisfaction has always ranked high, Wade said.

In the 2005 survey, 72 percent reported being very satisfied. It was 81 percent in 2016.

Cody has seen growth in activities geared toward tourism, Wade said. In 2005, there was one cowboy music venue; now there are two. Other additions include the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center, which recounts the experiences of Japanese Americans interned at the camp during World War II, and the Cody Firearms Experience, where people can safely fire replicas of guns used in the Old West in an indoor shooting range. “It’s just fun,” Wade said.

Respondents were an even split between males and females. Of those, 38 percent had college degrees and 35 percent graduate degrees. Half earned $100,000 or more annually. Their average age was 51.

Baby boomers (1946-1964) are still working, traveling and possess more disposable income. This age class fancies the experience Park County and the park offer, but they’re partial to hot showers, warm beds and the reassurance that their lodging reservations are arranged.

Millennials (born in 1980s and 1990s) are more spontaneous, Wade said. They’re more likely to stay with friends.

The 2005 survey asked if visitors were using the internet to research their journeys, Wade said.

In 2005, 70 percent utilized the internet to plan their vacation, according to the survey. In 2016, three websites — the National Park Service, Park County Travel Council, the Wyoming Office of Tourism — and private enterprise ranked equally at the top.

Boomers are at ease surfing social media, but they also rely on maps and travel guide books, Wade said.

The Travel Council is marketing more on social media, Wade said. The council is also advertising in travel guides.

China accounted for 2 percent of the visitors in 2005. That figure rose to 6 percent in 2016, according to the survey.

The travel council will host a China workshop in March for the business community to recognize the sort of attractions the Chinese seek, Wade said.

Much remains the same from 11 years ago, such as Yellowstone being the No. 1 location visited in Park County (89 percent of visitors went there). Changes include visitors to Park County enjoying a wider variety of activities, Wade said.

She said it’s crucial to inform visitors of the activities available in Park County before they embark on their trips.

“I think what we have been doing is effective,” Wade said.

The council’s goal is to reach more people, she said. Another objective will be increasing overnight stays.

The average number of nights spent in Park County dipped slightly, from 4.92 nights in 2005 to 4.68 in 2016, according to the survey.

However, some 48 percent of visitors spent at least one night in Cody this summer — up from 39 percent in 2005. Another 9 percent spent a night in the Wapiti Valley (up from 4 percent in 2005), while 3 percent slept in Powell (up from 2 percent).

The council will continue to examine the survey results, Wade said. On the other hand, the survey suggests the council and its marketing partners are on the right track.

“We have such a great destination here,” Wade said.

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