CASPER, Wyoming – Visit Casper approved its annual budget on Monday, July 12. Backed by CARES funds and a robust summer for leisure travel, the base budget is still $ 200,000 to $ 300,000 less than typical budgets, CEO Brook Kaufman told Oil City News on Friday. .
With nearly $ 527,500 coming from CARES funds (distributed by the State on the basis of accommodation tax collections), Visit Caper’s budget for the 2021-2022 fiscal year is $ 2,120,358.48, in increase of approximately $ 310,000 from last year.
The tourist board is backed by a 4% county accommodation tax, last approved by voters in 2018. Revenues in 2020 were down between 25% and 33.333% in 2020.
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“It’s a very robust summer from a recreation standpoint,” Kaufman said. Visit Casper subscribes to weekly data from Destination Analysts, which tracks travelers’ feelings, concerns and likelihood of travel.
Yellowstone National Park said it had record attendance in May and June. June attendance was up 20% from June 2019, according to YNP.
Business travel and comfort with groups have been slower to recover, Kaufman said, hampering Casper’s recovery in the meetings and convention market, in which he is generally strong.
The anticipation of this market recovery partly explains an increase of about 75% in the sponsorship budget of Visit Casper. In addition to hosting the Wyoming Association of County Officials in 2023 and the Outdoor Writers ‘Conference in 2022, Kaufman said Visit Casper hopes to make the 5150’ Festival in August an annual event that picks up some of the energy of the 2017 Eclipse. Festival. .
The sponsorship budget also allows Visit Casper to attend the Small Market Meetings sales show in Cheyenne, where reps connect and woo corporate meeting planners looking for a place to do business.
“We’re trying to make a fit between this business and our community,” Kaufman said, adding that once potential customers actually visit Casper and get a feel for the market, the deal is done “nine times out of ten.”
At the next Visit Casper meeting, the board will also consider a $ 30,000 agreement for Rudloff Solutions services to develop a tourism master plan for Casper and Natrona County.
With federal bailout funds becoming available (Natrona County is estimated to be around $ 15 million), Kaufman said it would be wise to have a concise vision and specific projects ready to come up with.
Darren Rudloff is an ideal partner in this area, Kaufman said, as he is the former CEO of Visit Cheyenne and is well versed in “all things Wyoming”.
Subscription services are a line item that has almost doubled from last year, from just over $ 300,000 to $ 600,000.
“I feel like [for] whatever we do to be smarter about things, there is a cost, ”Kaufman said. “We could do business without it, but we wouldn’t be able to make the best decisions without it. “
Kaufman said Visit Casper subscriptions include Simpleview, a customer relationship management and sales tracking database; Bandwango, which interfaces with mobile devices to create special offers and incentives for users when they check in at specific locations; and STR, which tracks hotel occupancy data on a weekly and monthly basis.
DI Calculator is an economic impact calculator from which Visit Casper pulls numbers on what events like the College National Final Rodeo and state tournaments bring to the local economy, Kaufman said.
Visit Caper is also budgeting for new positions. The “destination experience specialist” would be dedicated to the logistics management of events such as the CNFR and the Semaine du Restaurant 5150 ‘. Currently, this responsibility rests with “whoever [on the board] has time, ”Kaufman said. An offer for the post of Executive Assistant – recently vacated by Mikki Milosevic – has recently been closed.
The other budgeted position is a marketing operations coordinator, who would help analyze data to assess the effectiveness of the office’s awareness campaigns, Kaufman said.
Kaufman said some of the tourism board’s current goals are to develop new businesses and court the film industry.
“One of the things that concerns me is incubating tourism businesses,” Kaufman said. “From a service provider perspective, we are limited in these areas.” She said the board has been discussing how to launch such an initiative over the past two years.
Finally, while there have been a number of productions in recent years in Natrona County – the Discovery Street Outlaws series, a Wells Fargo national commercial, an art documentary and independent drama – Kaufman sees the place to develop.
While there are no state-level tax incentives, Kaufman and his team can help make productions easier by helping producers get permits and bypass bureaucracy.
A related effort already underway is to secure qualified locals to work on productions in a national database that producers can access, Kaufman said.