The President and CEO of the Bozeman Chamber of Commerce says decisions made in the next two weeks will determine the fate of the tourism industry this summer.
Daryl Schliem said the tourism industry needs two key things to happen in order to salvage a season that collapsed this spring. “As long as the 14-day quarantine lift and the ten-day, ten-person or less is in place, it will be a very long six months for the service industry,” said Schliem.
According to Schliem, guides, hotels and others are writing the governor asking that the 14-day quarantine for out of state visitors be lifted sooner than later.
He said, “Maybe put some other security measures and safety measures in place other than an all out fourteen day quarantine when you come here.”
Out-of-state tourism brought more than $800 million into the Gallatin County economy in 2018 and until March, the county was showing double digit growth for 2020. That’s now in grave danger.
“I think the bad news is that this is a big downturn and it’s going to be a real challenge just staying solvent,” said Patrick Barkey, Director of the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Montana.
Barkey said it will be hard to turn things around even if there are eased restrictions later in the summer season.
He added, “Most of those trips, especially for those coming from outside of Montana, they’re planning them now. And, the planning is very uncertain. It looks like a good year to skip quite frankly.”
But Schliem said he is a lot more optimistic. He said that thanks to the closing of Yellowstone National Park Hotels for the summer, local businesses have an opportunity.
“Belgrade, Bozeman, Big Sky, West Yellowstone should really take a hard look at is that the base camps now can be set up outside of Yellowstone National Park,” said Schliem.
But Schliem said he’s not 100 percent confident.
“I’m starting to say yes, I’m nervous,” said the Chamber of Commerce CEO.
That’s because Schliem agrees with Barkey that there may not be enough time to rebook trips already canceled.
Barkey said part of Montana’s allure for travelers is that it’s far away and hard to get to. That, he said could work against the state in a summer when many people are likely to vacation much closer to home.