CHEYENNE – Cheyenne’s restaurants are bustling, the concert venues are hosting live music, and hotels are seeing higher levels of occupancy than they did during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Though COVID-19 transmission is still present in the community, it seems as though Laramie County has returned to normal – and is possibly even busier than before COVID-19. With a number of events and promotions already in motion, local economic development agencies are anticipating that trend will also ring true for the tourism industry.
“We’re hoping for a record-breaking summer and fall,” Visit Cheyenne CEO Domenic Bravo said.
Last year, agencies like Visit Cheyenne and the Cheyenne Downtown Development Authority stepped up to salvage the tourism season in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic – hosting a number of events when Cheyenne Frontier Days was canceled, including the Hell on Wheels rodeo series at the Archer Complex, and attracting people to local businesses with events like Summertime on the Streets.
Looking forward, they plan to continue those efforts from last summer, as well as reap the benefits from increased vaccinations, loosened travel restrictions, and, of course, the boost from the “Daddy of ’em All,” Cheyenne Frontier Days.
Laramie County tourism revenues decreased 7% in 2020, according to a Wyoming Office of Tourism’s analysis, but the hope is this year will look much brighter.
“We should be doing super well,” Bravo said. “Our music venues are just going wild. There’s so many things going on. ... Our community should be hopping – if you can’t find something to do, you’re not looking in the right places.”
As Haylee Chenchar, assistant director of the DDA, pointed out, that is a promising prospect for a number of local businesses in town who rely on the summer months to make it through the slower winters.
Even though tourism season isn’t yet in full swing, she said downtown has been filled with visitors, many from Colorado, wanting to enjoy what Cheyenne has to offer. No restrictions, as well as the new open container laws in the downtown district, seemed to be working in favor of businesses on Memorial Day weekend.
“There were just a ton of people enjoying the downtown,” Chenchar said. “I think it’s going to be a great change from last year, and as the weather warms up, I think that we’ll see even more people visiting.”
Laramie County Tourism Master Plan
Because collaboration between the city’s four economic development agencies – Visit Cheyenne, the DDA, Cheyenne LEADS and the Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce – has proven successful in the past, the groups came together earlier this year to draft a Laramie County Tourism Master Plan, which will create a more consolidated vision for the tourism industry in Cheyenne and Laramie County.
After a few months of working with Darren Rudloff, former Visit Cheyenne CEO and founder of Rudloff Solutions, the plan is finally complete, except for a few finishing touches. It includes aspects of each agencies’ master plans, as well as specific projects and initiatives to help drive the industry.
“We’re all pulling in the same direction – your city leaders, county leaders – it’s just a benefit to us all,” Bravo said. “It’s one of those things that we get a good return on investment on; when we’re investing our dollars in the correct places, it means we can recruit business, and it means we can make ourselves an amazing destination that people want to come visit.”
In its final form, the plan outlines these strategic objectives: visitor experiences; downtown experiences and development; outdoor recreation; community branding; and framework and advocacy.
As Bravo mentioned, a number of the improvements identified in the plan fit into different categories on the next sixth-penny sales tax ballot and different grant opportunities, particularly the $6 million measure for the downtown and $6 million for the Greater Cheyenne Greenway.
Some initiatives outlined in the plan include:
- Create and promote one or more signature winter events
- Improve gateways into downtown Cheyenne, specifically from the interstates
- Create more Union Pacific Railroad attractions to draw in more year-round visitation
- Improve downtown infrastructure and develop plans to make Hynds/Hole development feasible
- Continue to develop the Greenway and help develop outdoor recreation options
- Develop multi-year Belvoir Ranch action plan to open land up for recreation
- Advocate and support transportation infrastructure developments
- Create a unified brand for Cheyenne and Laramie County