The leisure and hospitality industry continues to be a bright spot in the state and local economy.
The latest report from the Wyoming Department of Revenue shows that after declines in five consecutive quarters, total taxable sales in the state expanded 12.1% in the second quarter of 2021 compared with 2020, largely due to the record-breaking boom in tourism at Wyoming’s national parks.
In Johnson County, taxable sales rose 26.4% in the second quarter in the year-to-year comparison.
According to the report, the leisure and hospitality sector grew 82.8%, a substantial increase fueled by “the booming travel and tourism activities.”
Visitation to Yellowstone increased 138.8% from the previous year, while visitation to Grand Teton National Park showed an increase of 103.3%, making 2021 the highest visitation numbers in second-quarter history. More park visitors means more spending on meals in restaurants, more nights in hotel rooms or campgrounds and more spending in local retail outlets.
"Visitation figures for both Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks were the highest recorded for the second quarter in history, mostly attributed to visitors' outdoor sightseeing preference and the general booming travel and tourism activities from the pent-up demand,” said Wenlin Liu, chief economist with the state’s Economic Analysis Division.
Motor vehicle sales, as well as auto/machinery rental and leasing, showed significant increases of around 30% percent over the year.
Statewide, the retail trade sector increased 13.3% in the year-to-year comparison. Consumer spending in retail stores – such as furniture and home furnishings, liquor and sporting goods – also demonstrated strong growth.
While tourism and retail are leading the state’s economic recovery, the mineral extraction industry is also rebounding, albeit more slowly.
The $147.3 million in mineral severance taxes generated in the second quarter of 2021 was just slightly lower than the previous quarter but substantially higher than the prior year levels.
Severance tax collections were nearly back to the pre-COVID level due to the strong rebound in both oil and natural gas prices, Liu said.
“Despite the substantial weakness in taxable sales of the mineral extraction industry, the total taxable sales in the second quarter of 2021 nearly recovered to the pre-COVID (the second quarter of 2019) level, thanks to the strong performance in leisure and hospitality services, as well as motor vehicle and retail sales,” Liu said.