Horseback riding across the Wind River near Dubois. (Wyoming’s Wind River Country)
(Dubois, Wyo.) – The government shut down that took place over the past several weeks that displaced visitors to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, ultimately resulted in what could be considered a bonus to Dubois’ future tourism economy. While creating a negative effect at the beginning of the shutdown, with many visitors cancelling reservations and their vacations, the net effect turned out to be an interesting and surprising one.
According to several Dubois business owners, a few of the displaced visitors turned away from the National Parks and ended up discovering Dubois, and after enjoying dining, shopping and viewing wildlife and the natural beauty of the immediate area, stated they would return in the future, making Dubois their vacation destination. Gary Keimig, co-owner of Silver Sage Gallery in Dubois, said that his experience was an increase in travelers to the gallery at the beginning of the shut down, and a noticeable slow down as time progressed. He also noted that he “heard a lot of four-letter words describing the federal government but many complimentary descriptions of the gallery, the town of Dubois and its people”.
Kurt Gordon, co-owner of Antler Workshop and Gallery in Dubois said, “We had quite a few people come into the gallery who had been visiting Yellowstone this time every year for several years who had never been to Dubois before.” He went on to explain that a nature photographer who always traveled to the national parks visited Dubois for the first time and was amazed by the wildlife and scenic beauty, and would not only return next year, but tell friends and other photographers. He also spoke about a group of European travelers who visited the gallery, disappointed that they were unable to see Old Faithful, but were thrilled to see grizzly bears and witness the rock slide at Brooks Lake, so felt as though they had just as memorable an experience.
The Stagecoach Motor Inn in downtown Dubois observed a negative impact in the beginning of the process, with “a little bit of a gain towards the end for this time of year.” The motel ended up with a group of more than 40 high school students from Greybull originally scheduled to work on a geological project in Mammoth Springs who ended up staying in Dubois instead.
According to Wind River Visitor’s Council marketing director Paula McCormick, the Wyoming Office of Tourism and the Wind River Visitor’s Council “worked aggressively to use the shutdown as an opportunity” to promote the activities, towns and businesses of Wyoming as travel destinations as alternatives to the National Parks. From what visitors to several Dubois businesses were told, it appears that word was well heard.