Travel through the Jackson Hole Airport has been on a strong and steady path of growth over the past several months, even while other visitation metrics remain largely unchanged.
Travelers through the gates of JAC jumped 56 percent in May compared to a year earlier. That was followed by an impressive June, which saw a 30 percent increase in year-over-year traffic.
However, elsewhere in the valley, visitation indicators remain largely unchanged relative to 2018. Grand Teton National Park recorded fewer entries through its gates in both May and June, and hotel occupancy rates fell slightly in May before rebounding in June.
That disparity has some local business leaders wondering where visitors are going, the Jackson Hole News and Guide reports.
Anna Olson, president of the Chamber of Commerce, believes that it’s unlikely that high-spending visitors are edging out other “road-tripping” park visitors.
“I don’t believe there is a migration away because of prices,” Olson tells the News and Guide. “We are still running 90-plus percent occupancy in the summer. It’s just a different market mix.”
One explanation put forward is that more locals are now traveling by air. Historically, the breakdown between visitors and locals was believed to be about a 90-10 split, respectively. But data from the airlines indicates it is closer to 80-20, says Jackson Hole Air executive director Kari Cooper.
In the shoulder seasons – the months between peak summer and winter visitation – about 50 percent of travelers through the airport are locals, according to the airlines’ research.
Through the first half of this year, Jackson Hole Airport supported more than 20 percent more commercial passengers than it did in the same period a year earlier, which set its a record as the busiest mid-year by an 11-point margin.
Those numbers translated to 11,461 more enplanements in June, says Airport director Jim Elwood.
The number of flights grew, as well, up 14 percent in June year-over-year.