Budget and Branding topics of today's Fall Tourism Summit in Riverton

(Riverton, Wyo.) – Eighty-one members of the Wyoming Lodging and Restaurant Association and the Wyoming Travel Industry Coalition are in Riverton for the 2015 Wyoming Hospitality and Tourism Fall Summit. Governor Matt Mead is scheduled to deliver the keynote address at a dinner tonight at 7 p.m. at the Riverton Holiday Inn. The governor’s address will no doubt address his announcement made Wednesday of a request to all state agencies to return money back to the general fund and his freeze on hiring due to lowered revenue estimates. Wyoming Office of Tourism Director Diane Shober told the group during a panel discussion this afternoon that the governor’s request for exception budgets was to be for only “rare and critical needs.” She said that was the memo state agencies received back in August. Then came yesterday’s announcement about a looming budget crunch. “The tourism market is critical to the state’s economy,” Shober said. “Our marketing is a means to the end.” Yellowstone National Park reported this week record visitation. The park has thus far seen more than 3.8 million visits in 2015, which exceeds the total visits recorded in the previous busiest year of 2010, when the park tallied just over 3.6 million visits. While many factors are at play, park managers point to the National Park Service’s “Find Your Park” public awareness campaign, marketing and tourism promotions by the states of Montana and Wyoming, and lower gas prices as possible influences in the record number of visits to Yellowstone this year according to Buckrail. Shober said that “regardless where the budgets fall, we still have work to do.” She gave a shout-out to the tourism division’s partners, including the Wyoming State Parks and Historic Sites and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. Much of the morning session was taken up with the subject of Branding, including “Celebrating the Wyoming Brand” through content-driven marketing and a second panel on Opportunities to Champion Stories” through partner programs. #shortgo #wyoming