So one day last summer I was bustin’ a move—part backcountry hiking pace and part Texas Two Step—down Sheridan Avenue when I came upon a dude with a clipboard and smirk.
“What do you call that little dance step, lassie?” he asked.
“First of all, I am no lassie,” I replied. “You may call me Ms. Cody, and if I deem you worthy you may call me Corrie. Second, there is no name for that dance step. It is something that just happens when Dan Miller singing ‘Ghost Riders in the Sky’ gets stuck in my head. Fighting it is like trying to defy gravity.”
“I apologize for being so forward, Ms. Cody,” he said. “I also saw Dan’s show at his new digs in the Buffalo Bill Center of the West last night, and I must say that I hoofed it back to my hotel with the sounds of ‘Happy Trails’ putting a big smile on my face. It was still in my own head as I drifted off to sleep.”
“In that case, apology accepted and please call me Corrie,” I said. “Now, what’s up with the clipboard?”
Well, it turns out that my new friend was conducting a survey on behalf of our very own Park County tourism board to determine who visits our special corner of the world, and why.
While I thought I had a pretty good idea what the results of the survey would be, there are always a few surprises. Here’s what I learned:
The top five states our visitors are coming from are, in order, California, Texas, Colorado, Washington and Minnesota. When a similar study was conducted 11 years ago, Montana and Florida were in the top five while Texas and Minnesota were farther down the list.
Those who flew for a portion of their visit jumped from 27 percent to 37 percent, and Salt Lake City was the most popular airport. The Yellowstone Regional Airport here in Cody accounted for 12 percent of our visitors who flew in.
There was little change in the activities in which visitors participated with more than 50 percent enjoying wildlife watching, geyser gazing, day hiking and shopping/visiting galleries.
There was a big jump in return visitors. In 2005 some 59 percent of those surveyed had been to Park County before. That number jumped over the 11-year span with more than 80 percent of those surveyed saying this was a repeat visit.
The number of international guests grew from six percent in 2005 to 10 percent in 2016. England, Germany and France were the top countries visitors call home in both surveys, but those that are most notably increasing are China, Italy and The Netherlands.
As someone who likes to keep her finger on the pulse of tourism around here, I was happy to hear this news. I thought I had heard a few more Italian accents lately.
And while it is always fun to break down the numbers, I love hearing the stories even more and making friends with the people I meet. Even those who aren’t carrying clipboards.
Until next week, I am lovin’ life here in Cody, Wyo.