nick siddle shawn parker.jpg

Ashleigh Snoozy | The Sheridan Press

Nick Siddle, left, and Shawn Parker, right, chat about the Sheridan WYO Winter Rodeo skijoring course Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020.

I have spent the first week of the new year working on the 2021 edition of the official Sheridan County Travel & Tourism visitor guide — something I would have typically had completed in early December for a fresh calendar year release.

Obviously, there’s not a whole lot of typical in the world today — but that doesn’t mean we’re focusing on bad news!

I have held off on finalizing the new guide for a few reasons, paramount among them to see if there’s a chance that we’ll have many of the canceled 2020 events back on the calendar. I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to say that the entire community is hopeful that we’ll see events like the Snickers Cup, WYO Rodeo, Bighorn Trail Run and a whole host of others return bigger and better than ever.

My office is seeing a marked increase in the number of calls and emails from potential visitors, tour operators, travel planners and tour groups looking to lock in dates for 2021 — and beyond — a suggestion that there’s plenty of optimism about this upcoming season. That said, the shape that this upcoming tourism season takes is really anyone’s guess.

Last year we saw visitor travel and spending habits change dramatically; we saw more drive traffic than ever before, but a stunning drop in the number of overnight stays at hotels, as folks opted to spend time in vacation rentals, at camp sites, in RVs, and with friends and families. Visitors stayed longer than usual — some never left at all! — and spent more than we have seen in years past. One of the big questions is whether this is something that we’ll see continue this year, or if it was a temporary change brought about by the pandemic.

My best assumption is that we’ll slowly return to “normal” as vaccines are more widely dispersed, while we will still see large numbers of travelers come to Wyoming as they look to avoid heavily populated urban areas. I’m hopeful that this means 2021 will be a good year with a significant rebound for our tourism industry partners and all local businesses.

I’ve made mention of this before, but my team intends to continue working on our recovery campaign, titled "The Backyard," throughout this year. The positive feedback has exceeded our wildest expectations — each episode of our local travel show has already been viewed by tens of thousands of people, while the supporting campaign material has reached millions across TV, radio, social media and print.

We will continue to work at identifying emerging travel trends to position our promotional messaging in such a manner that allows us to capitalize on interest not just in Wyoming, but on travel to the American West as a whole. Check out The Backyard if you haven’t already by visiting our website at sheridanwyoming.org.

In the coming weeks, I should have a complete data profile on travel trends from 2020 that local partners and visitors can use to set marketing and promotional plans for their own businesses, so please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at the office.

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