BHC sees increase in tourism impact

Barbara Anne Greene

A recently released report found that between 2014 and 2023, direct travel income in Big Horn County increased by nearly $12 million: in 2014, the direct travel income spent was $28.4 million in Big Horn County; in 2022, it was $38 million; and in 2023, it was $40.1 million.
Piper Singer Cunningham,  a spokesperson for the Wyoming Office of Tourism (WOT), which authored the report, said, “Tourism isn’t just about visiting places; it’s about investing in communities. For Big Horn County, visitor investment supports local businesses, fosters connection, memories and appreciation for our stunning landscapes and vibrant culture. Let’s celebrate these economic impact results and continue to invest in Big Horn County.”
Linda Morrison, the director of the Lovell Area Chamber of Commerce, believes there are several factors contributing to the increase. One of them, she says, is an ongoing collaboration between the county and the three chambers in Big Horn County. Both Morrison and Greybull Town Administrator Carrie Hunt feel the cooperation between the chambers and county is positively impacting the county’s economic growth with tourism tax dollars.
Morrison said the county helped pay for two full-page ads in the Wyoming Office of Tourism Travel Guide. The Basin Area Chamber of Commerce, as well as the Greybull and the Lovell lodging tax groups, contributed to funding the ad as well. The ad promotes Big Horn County on a whole as a destination and a great place to spend a night or two for those wanting to visit Yellowstone.
The Familiarization Tours, a.k.a. “Fam Tours,” also are a factor. Recently, a Fam Tour stopped for lunch at Brandi’s Candies in Greybull. Brandi Drewry, the owner, said she is positive that some of those tour guides will be back. She heard nothing but rave reviews about their lunch and the beauty of the Big Horn Mountains. Fam Tours, which are arranged by WOT, bring tour operators from all over the world to Wyoming with the goal to have those tour operators ultimately to bring their own tours back to Wyoming in the future.
This year’s tour started in Casper. After staying in Sheridan for the night, they came over the Big Horns to Greybull, where the lunch stop was arranged by the Basin Area Chamber. A swag bag with information about Big Horn County as well as promotional, stickers, business cards and information about thing to see and do throughout the county was presented to the tour operators. A representative from the Basin Chamber welcomed the group at Brandi’s. In previous years, Fam Tours have stopped in Shell and Lovell.
Recently, Morrison attended an event sponsored by WOT in Casper. She promoted Big Horn County to a group of international tour guides, some of whom were on this fam tour. Her message? This county has it all: mountains, boating, hiking, biking, fishing and more, without the crowds or the prices.
Another driving factor in the increased tourism is the relationship the chambers have with WOT. Jim Wollenburg, Global Partnership Sr. Manager, has been a frequent visitor to the county. Representatives from the Basin and Lovell Chambers have taken him to various places throughout the county, including Wardell Reservoir, Red Gulch Dinosaur Tracks, the Bridger Trail (Burlington), the Museum of Flight and Aerial Firefighting, Basin Boat Ramp, Five Springs Waterfall and Medicine Wheel.
“He knows Big Horn County is filled with things to do and see,” said Morrison.
The travel impact report noted, “Overnight Visitor Volume for Big Horn County is based on cross-referencing visitor surveys, visitor air travel and lodging data. Volume estimates therefore will differ from methodologies that rely solely on visitor surveys. Visitor Spending is a more reliable metric to Visitor Volume in accounting for changes in the travel industry, as it is more closely tied to economic data and lessens the variability from visitor surveys. Day travel estimates are not included because of data limitations.”
Eight million was spent in food service establishments and 3.6 million at food stores. Retail stores accounted for 4.5 million in travel spending.