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Tourism in Southwest Montana could see devastating effects from coronavirus

Posted at 2:30 PM, Apr 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-17 16:30:54-04

BOZEMAN — Tourism is a big part of the local economy here in Bozeman. But for other smaller, neighboring areas, it can make or break their economy. And with everything going on with this pandemic, it can be a huge hit to the tourism industry.

“We are now planning not to open until May 15, at the earliest. Normally, we’re open by the last week in April,” said Kris Hauck, the owner of El Western Cabins and Lodges in Ennis.

Hauck is experiencing what so many other business owners in the tourism industry are facing: cancellation after cancellation.

“The refunds started going out right around the middle of March, and they haven’t stopped. We haven’t taken any new reservations for at least two weeks,” she explained.

And the effects trickles down to the residents. In Bozeman, it could mean higher prices.

“It will mean higher taxes down the road because the less businesses you have open, the less property taxes you have coming in. Those things all have multitude effects that are coming in,” explained Daryl Schliem, the president of the Bozeman Chamber of Commerce.

For communities who rely on tourism from Yellowstone, the damage can be devastating.

“What we expect will be absolutely predicated on when Yellowstone is able to open. The issue will be how fast that can happen and the extent to which it can reopen,” said Mary Sue Costello, the president of the West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce.

And time is crucial because a lot of tourism businesses only have a couple of months during the year to operate.

“You’re looking at a lot of businesses who make their money and living between June, July, August and September,” Schliem said.

And with stay at home orders being extended across the country, this pandemic could have lasting effects on the tourism industry.

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The Rebound: Montana