Yellowstone Camping on Par with '09 So Far
Room reservations are down about 10% at Yellowstone National Park lodges, but campground reservations are down just 1%, according to the Cody (Wyo.) Enterprise.
"Campgrounds are tracking similar to last year, or only about 1% below," said Rick Hoeninghausen of park concessionaire Xanterra Parks and Resorts. "There is speculation that camping will be bigger this year."
Xanterra manages four campgrounds (Bridge Bay, Madison, Grant Village and Canyon) with a total of 1,400 campsites and the 400-space RV park at Fishing Bridge.
Xanterra campsites cost a minimum of $18 per night, plus tax and energy surcharge, while RV park sites are $35 per night with electric hook-ups.
Hotels featuring the 2,200 rooms Xanterra is in charge of in Yellowstone, on the other hand, start at $65 per night (Roosevelt Lodge) and rise to Lake Hotel's best offerings at $228 per night.
About one-fourth of Xanterra's revenue come from bus tours, Hoeninghausen said. Early indications are they will be comparable to last year, which translates into "tens of thousands of room nights" for the company.
Xanterra is "more optimistic now than one month ago" about the 2009 summer season, Hoeninghausen said. "But we don't expect this year to equal last year."
"It's about the economy, but every day we are getting something positive about the economy," Hoeninghausen adds.
Consumer confidence is key to the 2009 summer season.
"At the end of the day, that's what we're talking about."
And once gas prices settle in, and economic news hopefully levels off, "I'm optimistic we'll have a strong fall," he added.
Meanwhile, based on the park's early "Foreign Individual Traveler" (FIT) reservations, there is expected to be an abundance of French tourists
In addition, at least as many Italians and Germans are anticipated this summer as their countrymen who traveled to the Yellowstone area last year.
Many Asians have swine flu concerns that could keep them away in droves, though, said Hoeninghausen.
But he's looking to the rest of the globe to make up for a potential shortage of U.S. visitors, at least those who live far away and book reservations early in the season. His predictions of summer travel are based on advance bookings for rooms in the park.