Blaine County tourism back to normal despite rising costs

BLAINE COUNTY, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) – Nationwide, COVID restrictions are a thing of the past. Now people are returning to travel, which means tourist numbers hit pre-pandemic highs.

“We’re doing a lot of travel bookings and we’ve seen March, April and May bookings are, in fact, about 10% higher than pre-pandemic levels,” said Matthew Conde of AAA Idaho.

In Blaine County, where tourist tax money brings in tens of millions of dollars a year, the lack of travel restrictions meant a winter of pre-pandemic standards, seeing many visitors visit the ski destination.

But, rising gas prices mean concerns about the ability of out-of-state visitors to come to the area.

“The southern part of Blaine County, Hailey, Bellevue and much of the camping here in the Wood River Valley attracts more of a drive-up audience,” said Mike McKenna, executive director of the Hailey and River Chamber. Wood. Valley. “And so far our numbers are great for the spring, which is technically the quiet part of the year, and it’s looking good for the summer.”

According to Condé, the Americans are ready to get back on the road, whatever the cost.

“About half of people planning to travel this summer will travel no matter what the prices do. So there’s a resilience there, in light of the pandemic and everything that’s going on, there’s a certain mentality of grit your teeth and carry on that kind of grips a lot of people,” Conde said. .

And for those visiting Blaine County, events like the Sun Valley Film Festival that have been missing for years are making a comeback.

“It’s the quality of life that we lacked; connecting with each other, live music, all that fun stuff,” McKenna said. “So it’s really that exciting, both as a guy who runs the chamber and as a local dad and husband who likes these things to happen too.”

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