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"Staycationers" contribute to local tourism boom

"Staycationers" contribute to local tourism boom

ISLAND PARK, Idaho - It's no secret that the tourism industry took a big hit during the economic downfall in 2008, but some destinations rebounded very fast -- including at least one in eastern Idaho.

The buzz around Island Park sounds more like a quiet murmur.

It's the off-season, but as the snow trickles away, the people will trickle in.

"This little town becomes very, very busy," said Connie Funkhouser, who has owned the Island Park Lodge for more than two decades, wining and dining people from around the world.

Lately, Funkhouser said she's also seeing a lot more people from our neck of the woods.

"It'll be a quick, fun trip (for people from surrounding areas)," Funkhouser said.

It's a phenomenon called "staycationing."

As the economy still recovers, many families are choosing to travel within driving distance to avoid pricey airfare.

"In some way, a sluggish economy has been good for us," said Steve Ductcher, the controller for Sawtelle Mountain Resort.  "People are traveling closer to home, rather than taking that long-distance trip."

Dutcher said every year since 2010, reservations have gone up by about 20 percent.
"We're booking very fast," Dutcher said, noting those reservations are made mostly by people looking to say just for a couple of nights.

That's a shift from previous years, when visitors from farther away were booking longer stays.

"The family reunions are very big right now," Dutcher said of another trend he's seen since 2010.

The cabins and bunk rooms are booking at an alarming rate, Dutcher said, by families from Utah and Idaho.

Most businesses in Island Park reopen for the summer season on Memorial Day weekend.

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