This species in Yellowstone National Park is appearing in greater numbers than ever before — people.
More than 2.5 million of them visited the world’s first national park over the June, July and August summer season, MSNBC reported. That’s up by more than 200,000 compared with summer 2009, putting Yellowstone on track to set another attendance record. Nearly 3.3 million people visited during all of 2009, topping the previous record set in 2007 by nearly 5%.
Marketing by the state tourism offices in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho probably is boosting Yellowstone tourism, park spokesman Al Nash said.
The weak economy might also be helping by encouraging cheap vacations.
“Visiting your national parks is a good value,” Nash said Wednesday (Sept. 8). “And you can sort of adjust the length and the type of your trip to fit your schedule and your wallet more than you can other visitor destinations.”
On the other hand, more people can mean longer lines at park entrance stations, restaurants and gift shop cash registers, Nash said, along with more traffic jams where people stop to gawk at roadside wildlife.
“If you came to the park and weren’t in a wildlife jam at some point, your trip probably was unusual,” Nash said. “And if you were in a wildlife jam, it probably lasted longer than you might have experienced in previous years.”
Business has been brisk at the nine hotels and other restaurants and gift shops operated by Yellowstone’s largest concessionaire, Xanterra Parks & Resorts, company sales and marketing director Rick Hoeninghausen said.
“It has been a very strong summer. I would say that this year our volumes, our business levels, have mirrored the strong visitation that we’ve experienced,” Hoeninghausen said.
The most people in Yellowstone on any given summer day — 25,000 to 30,000 — far exceeds population estimates for the park’s other large mammals.
Fewer tourists compared to last year have booked advance reservations to visit the greater Yellowstone National Park region this summer, but industry leaders hope low gas prices will lure people to drive to national parks and other attractions in Montana and Wyoming, according to USA Today.
Lee Haines, a spokesman for the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyo., told the Billings Gazette that museum planners are expecting flat visitor numbers this year with a slight rise possible in recreational vehicle traffic compared to last year. He said because many RV owners are retired, they have more flexible travel schedules that allow them to drive when gas prices are lower.
Rick Hoeninghausen, director of sales and marketing for Xanterra Parks and Resorts, the main lodging company in Yellowstone, told the Gazette that advance reservations so far this year are down 13% from last year. He noted that bookings are good for July and August, but group tours and early season stays are down.