By Gabrielle Gasser ASSOCIATE EDITOR
BIG SKY – Local stakeholders gathered this morning to discuss impacts of significant flooding earlier this week on Big Sky’s tourism economy.
The meeting, hosted by Visit Big Sky, included lodging partners, outfitters and guiding services, along with other local businesses. Its purpose, according to VBS CEO Brad Niva, was to get a sense of how local businesses will be affected by flooding that shut down Yellowstone National Park and has left some park gateway communities devastated and scrambling to respond.
Representatives from hotels and other lodging options in Big Sky shared that they have not seen a flurry of reservations canceled.
“I’m grateful to hear that a lot of our properties are not seeing large cancellation cuts, especially in lodging,” Niva said in an interview with EBS.
Property managers and lodging partners added that they have been fielding significant amounts of questions from travelers asking if Big Sky is open to travel and what activities besides touring the park are available to them.
Guides and outfitters on the call, however, see a drastically different summer unfolding.
Ash Tallmadge, general manager of Yellowstone Safaris, a Bozeman-based guiding service, said her inbox has been flooded with cancellations.
“We are going to have to shift and adjust our whole business plan for the summer and beyond,” Tallmadge said in the meeting.
Yellowstone Safaris normally uses the North Entrance to Yellowstone as the main access point for tours and the loss of that route, accessed through the battered town of Gardiner, is a massive blow, Tallmadge said. She added that her company is looking to pivot to using the West Entrance to continue offering tours this summer and keep the business afloat.
After sharing the current state of business, discussion turned to potential solutions and ways businesses can be nimble and support other gateway communities that will lose out on much-needed income from depleted summer tourism.
The Yellowstone Club Community Foundation yesterday seeded money to the Southwest Montana Flood Relief Fund which in its first 24 hours saw $350,000 in donations and local businesses discussed the possibility of adding a donation option to transactions to support the affected communities.
VBS will hold another public meeting next Tuesday, June 21 to continue work on a response plan and gather further community updates.