CODY, Wyo. — Advance reservations for summer and fall lodging in Yellowstone National Park are slightly ahead of last season, although spring looks to be starting a little slower.
The economic downturn of recent years has also provided Xanterra, the company that handles lodging within Yellowstone Park, with more job seekers who carry higher qualifications and are willing to work deeper into the season.
Rick Hoeninghausen of Xanterra said he’s optimistic that 2011 will be a strong season, even with gas prices creeping back toward 2008 levels.
Advance reservations, measured by room nights, are up over last year, and campground reservations have been strong.
“Both areas we’re tracking are slightly ahead of last year,” Hoeninghausen said Wednesday. “And last year was a good year — a record year for park visitation and a strong year for us.”
Hoeninghausen placed the increase in reservations at around 5 percent. Much of the interest so far has been for mid-summer and early fall.
“It’s been a natural trend for years now for fall to get more popular,” he said. “I’m not seeing that same trend for spring. It’s been a little softer.”
Hoeninghausen said the Old Faithful Snow Lodge is scheduled to open on April 29, followed by Old Faithful Lodge on May 6. The Mammoth Hotel will open on May 13.
The Roosevelt Lodge and Lake Lodge will be the last to open in the park on June 10.
“There are lots of opportunities for lodging for folks who want an early season experience,” Hoeninghausen said. “I don’t know that there’s any dates right now where you couldn’t find a campsite at all.”
Xanterra manages 2,200 hotel rooms within Yellowstone and maintains around 1,400 campsites and 400 RV spots. The company will employ around 2,600 people once the park is fully open for the season.
Interest in working in Yellowstone has been strong, Hoeninghausen said.
“With the economy being what it is, there’s no shortage of applications,” he said. “We’re seeing people available for longer seasons. We’ve seen some exceptionally qualified folks looking for other options.”
Hoeninghausen doesn’t expect rising gas prices to lead to reduced visitation.
“Soft economies and higher gas prices have sometimes worked to our advantage,” he said. “The first time we saw an impact was when gas hit $4 back in 2008. But visitation was still good and occupancies were strong, we just saw a reduction in spending on gifts and food.”
Contact Martin Kidston at firstname.lastname@example.org or 307-527-7250.