Fremont County tourists spent over $131 million last year; Lodging tax will be on 2018 ballot

Paula McCormick and the Wind River Visitor’s Council gave an update at the most recent Riverton City Council meeting on Tuesday on the latest tourism numbers, and their economic impact.

McCormick said that in 2017, Fremont County saw 494,000 overnight visitors. They spent $131.6 million in the county. That number was up 6.2% from 2016.

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The tourism increase was attributed largely to the total solar eclipse in August. In a 5-day window around the eclipse, Fremont County saw 41,700 visitors, who spent $3.7 million. McCormick said there were $60,000 in local tax receipts and $160,000 in statewide tax receipts.

Of the visitors surveyed, 44% of them said they’d like to return to Fremont County.

In the $131 million dollars spent by tourists for all of 2017, data showed that $27.3 million of that went to county restaurants. $20.6 million was spent in lodging, $20.2 million in arts, entertainment, and recreation, $16 million in shopping, $14.7 million in gas and car rental, $8.7 million in groceries and other food items, $1.2 million in air travel, and in an additional “other travel” category there was $22.9 million spent.

The visitor’s council said that there are 1,420 jobs in Fremont County supported by just tourism, and that tourists paid for 11% of the overall county sales tax. McCormick said if it had not been for tourism, county residents would have had to pay an average of $431 more tax dollars to support existing government services.

She noted the Wind River Visitor’s Council is aiming a marketing campaign for tourists to “go beyond Yellowstone,” in hopes they’ll spend more time in Wyoming. She says they’d like to see the county attract more conferences in the coming years and continue to support air travel. Additionally, McCormick said they hope Fremont County will see more international tourists, because those coming from overseas tend to spend more time, and money in the county when visiting.

Fremont County’s lodging tax is currently at 4%, which is the maximum percent allowed by state statute. The lodging tax has been at 4% since 2010, and was renewed in 2014 by an overwhelming 80% of voters. The 4% lodging tax will be on the November 2018 ballot. Money from the lodging tax goes back to the Wind River Visitor’s Council’s efforts to attract tourists to the area.

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