Wyoming travel economy declines 23% in 2020, spending down ~$900M

(File photo, Trevor T. Trujillo; Oil City)

CASPER, Wyo. — Wyoming’s travel economy declined by about 23% in 2020 as COVID-19 impacted tourism across the United States. In the Cowboy State, that meant travelers spent about $900 million less than the $3.95 billion they spent in Wyoming in 2019, according to a 2020 Economic Impact of Travel in Wyoming report conducted by Dean Runyan Associates.

2019 had been a record year for Wyoming’s travel economy, but the COVID-19 caused a setback in that sector. However, the Wyoming Office of Tourism noted on April 27 that Wyoming’s travel economy saw a milder decline compared with the U.S. travel economy overall which declined by 36% in 2020.

Visit Casper CEO Brook Kaufman detailed Natrona County tourism data for 2020 in a conference call on May 3, noting that Natrona County saw 627,580 visitors in 2020 which was a decline of 333,420 visitors compared with 2019. Travelers to Natrona County spent an estimated $225.9 million in 2020.

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Statewide, the report commissioned by the Wyoming Office of Tourism found that spending on gasoline accounted for the largest drop in traveler spending: “$228 million was lost in 2020 compared to 2019.”

While campground visitors spent about $78 million less in 2020 than they did in 2019 in Wyoming, the report found that hotel, motel and STR (Smith Travel Research data) visitors spent $537 million less in 2020.

The number of overnight visitors declined from 9.3 million “person trips” to 6.9 million in 2020.

Direct employment in the travel industry in Wyoming declined by around 4,000 jobs in 2020, amounting to a 12.1% decline, according to the report: “The largest amount of job losses occurred within accommodations and
food services sector, which lost 2,900 travel-generated jobs.”

Tax receipts generated by travel spending were down 21.4% compared with 2019.

“Last year was unprecedented for the world and travel industry, but as the least populated state, Wyoming was uniquely positioned as a destination for those looking to enjoy wide-open spaces in a socially-distant environment,” said Wyoming Office of Tourism Executive Director Diane Shober said. “Our local communities and businesses worked hard this past year to safely welcome visitors, and we are now in a much better position because of their resiliency.”

The full report provides further economic data, including specific data for each county in Wyoming. The full 2020 report can be found here.

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