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Wyoming is having a strong year for tourism, with visitors expected to surpass last year’s mark of 8 million.
Wyoming’s tourism fell off sharply in 2009 after the recession but has been climbing back, The (Casper) Star-Tribune reported Sunday.
Wyoming is seeing more hotel bookings and travelers who stop at welcome or visitor’s centers, state travel and tourism director Diane Shober said. Those are considered the two best indicators of overall tourist activity.
In 2012, travel spending totaled $3.1 billion, driven by more than 8 million visitors, an increase of four percent over 2011, according to figures from Dean Runyan Associates, an economic and market research organization.
Slightly more than 50 percent of all accommodations in the state are in Park and Teton Counties. Tourism is a major driving force in Teton County, Shober said, and it’s a very large percentage of the economy in Park County, as well.
“Reservations and bookings at Yellowstone Park are up slightly this year over last and that’s good news for the two counties and suggests a promising summer,” Shober said in an interview last week.
The number of travelers stopping at visitors centers across the state is up 25 percent over a year ago, she said.
The Cheyenne visitor’s center pulled in about 1,000 visitors a week at its old location in south Cheyenne. At its new location, the renamed High Plains Visitors Welcome Center averaged more than 5,000 visitors per week in June, Shober said.
A new state tourism promotion involves stickers depicting various iconic landmarks, such as the Grand Tetons or Devils’ Tower. The centers can give the stickers to visitors.
In southwest Wyoming, the visitor’s center at Green River has a flyer for visitors advising them of the free stickers. So far the center has given out about 50 stickers, said Rebecca Briesmaster, director of the Green River Chamber of Commerce.
The center, she said, is seeing between 1,500 and 2,000 tourists a month, which is about the same number as last summer.
The National Historic Trails Interpretive Center in Casper is also reporting a busy summer.
The trails center is not affiliated with the Wyoming tourism agency. Instead, it is a cooperative partnership between the federal Bureau of Land Management, the National Historic Trails Center Foundations and the city of Casper.
“We’ve been busy, we have folks from all over,” Stacy Moore, a center staffer, said.
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