By Ernie Over, WyoToday

The Riverton City Council has taken under advisement the 2023-24 budget proposal from the Wind River Visitors Council (WRVC), the county’s lodging tax board. WRVC Executive Director Helen Wilson said the budget totals $1,018,182, the amount the optional tax brought in over the past 12 months.

“We had an exceptional year last year, increasing lodging tax revenues from $729,500 to just over $1 million. We are hoping for another million-dollar year this year,“ Wilson said. For the first time, lodging revenues collected in Dubois surpassed those from Riverton. With 25% of the revenues distributed to local communities, Wilson said Dubois would receive $95,562 for tourism asset development this new fiscal year. Riverton will receive $81,837; Lander is slated to get $76,754 with Shoshoni earmarked for $10,400 and Hudson receiving $5,200.

Included in the upcoming WRVC projects is $35,000 for an interpretive plan for Wind River Reservation attractions and $30,000 for marketing air service at Central Wyoming Regional Airport in Riverton. The council also plans to spend nearly $20,000 in international marketing efforts with another $20,000 set aside for familiarization tours and press trips with travel counselors from across the country and media members who will write about local attractions. Funds have also been set aside for social media promotions, literature production and distribution, attendance at travel conferences and professional development, a website, direct marketing and regional and state partnerships.

In her presentation to the council, Wilson noted that tourism directly supported 1,665 jobs within Fremont County during the past year while tourist spending totaled over $157 million.

What does she see on the horizon? Wilson said consumers are looking to book their vacations earlier, there is an increase of international travelers returning to the U.S., and off-season travel, the shoulder seasons of autumn and spring are growing in popularity. She also noted many travelers are wanting to return to nature, in part because travel costs, like everything else, are on the rise.

Wilson said WRVC is assisting Central Wyoming College with a tourism study of Fremont and Hot Springs counties. She said the Visitors Council is also involved in a wide variety of projects to help make the Wind River Country more visible and attractive to prospective travelers.

Councilor Kyle Larson thanked Wilson for the information, and suggested the council have time to digest the proposed budget before voting on it. It was agreed, by consensus, to take some time to review the materials Wilson presented and then vote.

The budget must be approved by the end of June.