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Sour Economy Has Created Lots of Availability At Yellowstone National Park Lodges


Room availability in Yellowstone National Park could be high this summer due to the sour economy. Kurt Repanshek photo of Old Faithful Inn.

It's long been written in guidebooks that if you want to stay in Yellowstone National Park during the summer months, you must reserve your rooms well in advance. While that's still a good idea, the sour economy has created quite a bit of availability for this summer, meaning your hunt shouldn't be so difficult.

Yellowstone's lodging concessionaire, Xanterra Parks & Resorts, reports that there is more vacancy for the summer at this time of year than they typically encounter. As a result, if you've always wanted to visit Yellowstone, and managed to avoid the worst of the economic doldrums, this might be a great year to realize that dream.

“In any given week or month this year reduced demand means there are more rooms to be found than in any recent years," says Jim McCaleb, Xanterra's general manager in Yellowstone. "If summer visitation drops at the same rate it did this past winter, this could be the least crowded summer in two decades.”

According to the National Park Service’s official statistics, winter visitation was down 13.2 percent. If that number remains constant throughout the year, said Mr. McCaleb, visitation will decrease by more than 400,000 people to approximately 2.6 million. In 2008, 3,066,579 people visited the park.

“There are plenty of open nights, and the bottom line is that this is a great year to visit Yellowstone National Park,” he said. “We still have availability every day of the summer, including the traditional peak periods.”

Along with the ready availability, there are some packages that could save you additional money on a Yellowstone trip. Xanterra is kicking off the summer with a series of special offers called the Summer Getaway Packages. The packages will be available at selected hotels from season opening in May through mid-June. In addition to saving up to 25 percent off peak season rates, the packages will feature a welcome gift, tours, breakfasts and discount card.

Check Xanterra's website for details.

Xanterra operates nine lodges in Yellowstone. The lodges open on a staggered schedule beginning May 1 until all are open in mid-June. They then begin closing in early September with the Old Faithful Snow Lodge the last property to close, on Oct. 18, 2009. Rates start at $64 per night for a cabin and $89 for historic hotel rooms with shared bathrooms.

General reservations for accommodations, tours and activities can be made by calling (1) 307-344-7311 or toll-free 866-GEYSERLAND (1-866-439-7375) or online.


Sadly, many of the National Park hotels, as well as local lodging outside the parks, are really suffering in our current down economy. On a recent visit to a smaller park concession in California we found the staff had been cut to a skeleton crew and were badly demoralized. Services were extremely minimal, when compared to past levels. Management was trying to put on a happy face, but it was clear the operation was close to shutting down. With that said, I think this is a great time to visit the parks, particularly if you can get a discount deal and are willing to lower your service expectations. But I also am suggesting that you make reservations using a credit card, as in most cases this will allow you to recover your deposit in the event the concessionaire is financially forced to shut down prior to your visit. Larger corporations with deeper pockets, such as Xantera or Delaware North, are probably safer than the smaller operations like the one I visited.

I appreciate Strykers comments. This is an opportunity for all us USA'ers an others to support our parks. Get out here. Spend some money and save some at the same time. Our parks employees and services need our visitation. Its a great time to show our kids our natural treasures and instill the wonders and value of our National and State Parks.

Your suggestion in re: to using a credit card to make a reservation is a good one. I have had the experience of having reservations on an airline that went out of business. Fortunately, I used a credit card. Even then it took awhile to get the charge removed. Here on Maui the tourist industry is truly hurting with visitation down more than 20%. In Hawaii, when tourism is cut everyone bleeds.

I recently spoke to some folks who run a B&B in Alaska, and they said that while it's usually good to book their spot a year in advance, they still have openings for this summer.

As Kurt points out in the original story, for "those who managed to avoid the worst of the economic doldrums, this might be a great year to realize that dream" trip.

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