FREMONT COUNTY—This week, May 6–12, 2018, is National Travel and Tourism Week. This year’s theme is “Travel Then and Now.” The Wind River Visitors Council (WRVC), Fremont County’s Lodging Tax Board that promotes tourism to the county, looked at how the impact of the travel and tourism industry has changed in Wind River Country over the years.

“People don’t realize … how important tourism has been historically,” Randy Wise, site manager of the Lander Pioneer Museum, explained. “People have been coming to Lander from the beginning for tourism. In Sinks Canyon we have pictures from 1890 of people going up to Sinks taking pictures and writing postcards to their friends back East.”

Though we don’t have the statistics of how many travelers there were or how much their purchases benefited the town, we can bet that has improved as much as the travelers’ experiences have.

Just since 2000, Fremont County—branded as Wind River Country to travelers—has experienced a 71-percent increase in visitor spending, according to a report by Dean Runyan Associates released by the Wyoming Office of Tourism. In the past year, the county saw a 6.3-percent increase in visitor spending. Last year, visitors spent a total of $131.6 million in Fremont County. That supports local businesses and 1,420 local jobs.

Tourism has always been a thread of the Wind River Country fabric, but it hasn’t always had such a benefit for all residents. In 2017, visitors to Fremont County generated $6.8 million in local and state tax receipts. Those are taxes Fremont County citizens didn’t have to pay—to the tune of $431 per Fremont County household—for existing government services. Fremont County’s local and state tax collections through travel and tourism have nearly doubled in the past decade from $3.5 million and even outpaced the state.

All this growth in lodging and other travel expenditures happened through the peaks and valleys Fremont County has historically felt from the mineral extraction industries. Purchases and stays by business travelers are included in studies by Dean Runyan Associates.

“To have our travel and tourism expenditures up is evidence of strong growth in travel and tourism in Wind River Country, especially compared to many other counties who have been impacted more by the minerals industry downturn,” said WRVC Marketing Director Paula McCormick.

Whether you look back 120 years, 10 years, or one year, travel to and through Wind River Country has improved for travelers and for their hosts in an attempt to compete with the likes of other states and their attractions like whale watching california. The WRVC is committed to sustaining that growth for the county’s overall economic wellbeing.