20190501-wbr-tourism

Arnie Sybrant and his wife, Nancy, work to load their fishing boat after most of an afternoon on the North Platte River. They put in at Mills Landing, a Bureau of Land Management site that is very popular with residents and non-residents. Tim Monroe photo

With the summer tourism and outdoor recreation season approaching quickly – Memorial Day weekend is always the kickoff – visitor center operatives are ready to go.

In fact, any print advertisements, digital contracts and travel guide ad buys have already been purchased because Wyoming’s tourism experts know that a head start is always needed.

Visit Cheyenne, the trade name for the Laramie County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, is working hard on several major projects. In early May, for instance, Visit Cheyenne hosted visitors from around the United States and some foreign nations as the Union Pacific Railroad unveiled the Big Boy 4014 steam engine. The huge piece of memorabilia from a more romantic time was brought to Cheyenne in 2013 to be completely refurbished.

Cheyenne is also helping plan the July 10 opening of the state Capitol after a major renovation that closed the historic structure for several years. The building has been brought up to electrical and plumbing code, along with other visitor fixes that make the grand old structure safer.

Of course, Cheyenne Frontier Days is a big draw in Laramie County. Thousands of locals and visitors will enjoy the rodeo and the evening performances that fill the grandstand at Frontier Park for 10 days in and around the last full week in July.

Darren Rudloff runs Visit Cheyenne on a $700,000 budget. He buys print ads using the State Tourism Department’s financial assistance.

“We’re seeing strong winter-month hotel occupancy rates because conventions and trade shows are scheduled and will bring more people to the community,” he said.

Rudloff said 2018 figures showed 1.1 million visitors to Laramie County, with their spending up about 8% over the prior year.

Visit Casper also makes an aggressive effort to promote summer visitation. As in other counties, Visit Casper is the trade name describing the work done by the Casper Area Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. Its jurisdiction covers all of Natrona County, which includes Midwest, Edgerton, Mills, Bar Nunn and Casper. Visit Casper buys ads in the Yellowstone Journal, Wyoming Travel Guide and international guidebooks distributed through Rocky Mountain International’s targeted foreign and domestic markets.

Fishing is part of an intense effort to draw sportsmen and women to Casper to enjoy the blue ribbon experience on the North Platte River. Working with private guide services, Visit Casper each year draws several thousand visitors, who rent guided trips and spend money in hotels, restaurants and places selling adult beverages.

Casper also has print placements in various publications that will be distributed to 2.3 million consumers. And monthly newsletters go to potential customers who have expressed interest in Casper. Of course, social media is used to promote outdoor recreation, fishing, culinary experiences, the Central Wyoming Fair and Rodeo and various festivals.

“As national parks continue to be a major draw, Casper benefits, as 25% of our leisure visitors come to our city on their way to Grand Teton and Yellowstone,” said Brook Kaufman, CEO of Visit Casper. “We have enjoyed steady increases in occupancy this spring and look forward to keeping that momentum going through the summer.”

The Wind River Country is taking a somewhat different approach to marketing communities and attractions. Paula McCormick said the organization receives about $700,000 annually from the 4% lodging tax levied on accommodation rentals. The organization is named because of the proximity to the Wind River mountain range.

“We send about 25% of the lodging tax receipts to communities in Fremont County to help them operate visitor centers, usually found in Chamber of Commerce offices in Dubois, Lander, Riverton and Shoshoni,” McCormick said.

Wind River Country is trying a completely different marketing approach from similar outfits in Wyoming.

“We’ve enlisted Google to manage an online presence,” McCormick said. “Google doesn’t charge, but we have hired a third-party destination management organization to actually do the technical work, such as taking 360-degree photos of a museum, for instance, and then post those on our Google site.”

She’s hoping the experiment will increase visitors by 25% this year. The DMO will track all impacts on businesses in the county this year.

Cody Yellowstone is the marketing name for the Park County Travel Council. Cody is a gateway community to Yellowstone National Park. The council receives about $3 million annually from the lodging tax. About $2 million is devoted to marketing and administrative costs. And, as explained by Claudia Wade, CEO of the council, “We have a generous grant program for nonprofit tourism attractions and to support chambers of commerce in the county.”

She noted that marketing has changed significantly and continues to change. Cody Yellowstone uses different strategies to reach tour groups, seniors, families and young adventure seekers.

“Certainly geo-targeting is very effective, but so is a full-page ad in the ‘Cowboys and Indians’ magazine,” Wade said. “This is the 100th anniversary of the Cody Stampede July 1-4, and advance ticket sales are very strong.”

Overall, the varying approaches of the different visitor’s bureaus are likely to bring more visitors to the state. And it is expected that Natrona County will benefit from Fremont County’s Google experiment, while other jurisdictions will also benefit from individual marketing operations by their neighbors.

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