Times sure change.
Forty years ago, the main tourism destinations in Wyoming were Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks with a smattering of interest in Devils Tower, the country’s first national monument.
Also large crowds would come from all over the world to special events like Cheyenne Frontier Days plus a few others.
But all that has changed. Today, every nook and cranny of Wyoming enjoys the benefits of tourism.
Main reasons for this change has been a desire on the part of the people of USA to come West and see for themselves what all the fuss is about. A few million radio, TV and printed images of Buffalo Bill, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Yogi Bear, Clint Eastwood, and others have also boosted this movement.
The rise of the American middle class after World War II also saw the newly mobile families wanting to load up the station wagon, pack the tent, and head toward the setting sun.
Growing up in the Midwest, my siblings and I all yearned to head west and see mountains, Cowboys and Indians, national parks, and feed the bears.
With this in mind, it is notable to report that there are 27 local lodging taxes in place in the state.
Using the tagline “it’s the tax you do not have to pay,” many of these lodging tax issues will be on ballots on Tuesday. I enthusiastically encourage you to vote YES on any in your area.
Local lodging taxes have provided money that is used to promote areas as out of the way and diverse as Cokeville, Diamondville, Pine Bluffs, and Hulett.
And all these places have seen a surge in visitors over the last few decades.
Interestingly, a true gold mine for Wyoming state tourism has been international tourism. Millions of people now come to Wyoming from every corner of the world.
For decades, the biggest group of visitors were Europeans, who often get six weeks of paid vacation and would spend three or four weeks touring the USA.
These folks would still focus on the big attractions but some of their favorite experiences would be heading over to Kemmerer or Newcastle or Worland or Rawlins. Once there, they would dress like Americans and talk and act like us. Their biggest thrills were making locals think they were just fellow Yankees passing through.
Most recently, we see thousands of Asian tourists coming to America and spending lots of money. Plus all these foreign tourists pay lodging taxes.
Voters will go to the polls on Nov. 6 to approve lodging taxes in Afton, Albany County, Carbon County, Cokeville, Converse County, Diamondville, Evanston, Fremont County, Greybull, Hot Springs County, Johnson County, Kemmerer, Laramie County, Lovell, Natrona County, Park County, Sweetwater County, Teton County, Washakie County and Weston County.
As I travel around Wyoming, it appears that lodging taxes are favored by an overwhelming majority of voters from Weston County to Uinta County and Laramie County to Afton.
Only place where there is pushback is Teton County. There are some nasty newspaper ads being published in the local papers raising cane about all the traffic jams and gridlock. We passed through Jackson on a beautiful October day recently and the volume of cars was surprising. This is off-season? There appears to be a true rage there among some locals who feel Jackson Hole has enough tourists.
With that said, though, the lodging tax in Jackson is used to promote shoulder seasons. Plus they probably spend way more money on helpful programs like mass transit and walking paths.
Back in 1989-1993, I was a member of the Jackson Hole Visitor Council board and even then, there were complaints about too many tourists.
On a side note, construction is nearing completion on a roundabout at the Kelly Road intersection north of Jackson. This road has been a source of gridlock every summer. It will be interesting to see if this new-fangled traffic mover will help or hinder the problem.
Cheyenne has jumped into the roundabout program for years now and it seems to work, although I still hear an occasional whine from an old-timer or two.
We first encountered them in Great Britain in the 1980s and were baffled. Seemed we would get on one and never get off.
Getting back to local lodging taxes — they are wonderful and I encourage voters all over Wyoming (including Jackson) to vote YES when you go to the polls. It really is the tax that you do not pay.