Visitors to Albany County are spending more and staying longer, according to a report issued by the Wyoming Tourism Office.
The report, completed by Oregon-based consulting group Dean Runyan Associates, compiled travel impacts and data for each county, as well as statewide.
In total, the report said travelers spent an estimated $171.2 million in Albany County in 2018, an 8 percent increase from the previous year. This generated around $36.3 million in earnings by travel-related industries — a 6 percent increase from last year — along with an estimated 1,610 jobs.
Scott Larson, executive director of the Laramie Area Visitor Center, said the jobs the tourism industry brings to the county is “a really important story to tell.”
“Seeing that our employment rate is 2.8 percent, whereas without travel and tourism it would be closer to 10 (percent) — that’s a pretty staggering number to look at,” Larson said. “It allows us to welcome visitors, tell Albany County’s story and share with other people everything we have to offer here.”
While tourism creates a lot of jobs statewide — the hospitality industry is the largest private-sector employer in the state, providing about 32,000 jobs — Albany County’s tourism job growth has stagnated.
Despite an estimated 8.1 percent increase in traveler spending and a 6 percent increase in travel-related earnings since 2017, Albany County saw a 0.9 percent decrease in travel-related jobs since 2007. The two sectors hit the hardest are the arts and entertainment sector, with a decrease of about 2.3 percent of jobs, and the retail sector, which saw a loss of about 0.9 percent.
The average traveler stayed in the county around two days, the report said. With all the different amenities in Albany County — including Wild West history, year-round outdoor recreation and university sports — Larson said it’s not surprising people stay more than one night, even if they’re just passing through.
Hotels and motels were the most popular type of accommodation in the county, with an estimated 560,000 visitors in 2018, a 2 percent increase from 2017.
Visitors also spent more on lodging, food service and gas from 2007-2018, with estimated increases of 4.2 percent, 3.7 percent and 3.5 percent, respectively. These visitors also paid lodging taxes, sales taxes and gas taxes, which helps pay for amenities throughout the community.
Statewide, travel spending generates around $196 million in local and state tax revenue. Albany County received about $5.8 million in state taxes in 2018, including the state sales tax and the state motor fuel tax. Additionally, the county received about $3.8 million in local taxes in 2018, including from lodging taxes, local sales taxes and the county’s share of state taxes. The $9.6 million collected by the county in travel-related taxes is a 5.4 percent increase from 2017.
Of the county’s estimated $20.8 million in total state sales tax distributions, $3.5 million, or 17 percent, are from travel-generated distributions. Larson noted that’s about “one in five.”
“I really, personally believe that travel and tourism is a really valuable economic driver and that’s really valuable for business growth,” Larson said. “Those taxes help support the amenities that make this such an amazing community and amazing place for locals to live and play as well.”