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End of season survey showed Gardiner businesses had low bookings for 2023 season

The town of Gardiner, Montana spreads out along the Yellowstone River and the North Entrance to Yellowstone National Park.
Rachel Cramer/Yellowstone Public Radio

While many Gardiner businesses had a dim outlook for 2023 reservations at the end of last year, tourism in the town impacted by flooding in and around Yellowstone last summer appears to be picking up.

Around 50 businesses, mostly lodging and tour guide companies, responded to an end of season survey on flood impacts that was conducted by the Gardiner Chamber of Commerce late last year.

While about half of businesses reported receiving “some reservations,” for 2023, more than 10 percent had received no reservations. Terese Petcoff is the chamber’s Executive Director.

“Usually around that time of year bookings really start picking up. A lot of people, since it’s late in the year, are starting to reserve their vacation for next year, spending more time around family around Thanksgiving holiday around Christmas holiday, I think that’s why a lot of businesses were surprised by the lack of bookings they had for 2023,” she said.

Petcoff says since the pandemic Gardiner has seen a shift in how people plan their vacations with more people opting for last minute trips. Another factor: more than half of businesses in the end of year survey said they were still receiving inquiries on the flood event and if the North Entrance was open.

“People were still getting questions if the road was open, which was surprising. Throughout the flood event when they were working on construction on the road here at the visitor’s center that was the hardest thing to overcome was combating misinformation,” she said.

Petcoff says the town of Gardiner has been busy in late May. Since the survey, she’s checked in with hotels and vacation rentals, some of which are now completely booked for the year.

While she anticipates visitation in 2023 will return to more of a pre pandemic “normal,” she thinks it will be a bigger year than 2019.

Olivia Weitz covers Bozeman and surrounding communities in Southwest Montana for Yellowstone Public Radio. She has reported for Northwest News Network and Boise State Public Radio and previously worked at a daily print newspaper. She is a graduate of the University of Puget Sound and the Transom Story Workshop.