Livingston is a place that often welcomes waves of tourists. The attraction of Yellowstone National Park, as well as the Yellowstone River, brings in many clients for local businesses. Businesses have had to adapt to the rush of visitors that returned after COVID-19 had settled. More people wanted to see the world, and what better place to see than Montana. In fact, Yellowstone National Park visitation numbers in July 2021 were at an all-time high, according to the National Park Service website.
With the increase in newcomers, it creates new challenges for local businesses. From staffing shortages and supply chain problems that have affected businesses all over the country, to irate customers who disagree with mask policies, the past year has been taxing for employers.
Dan Bailey’s Outdoor Company in downtown Livingston has had steady business. COVID did cause a decrease in employees for many businesses, but owner Dale Sexton said, “Our employees are a foundation.” Dan Bailey’s had little to no staff shortage problems, Sexton said.
With a team, work can be easier. Longtime Dan Bailey’s employee Rob Lahren said, “We weren’t hit as hard from COVID. It is slow right now, but we are expecting a big wave in December.” Sexton said Dan Bailey’s had a slight price increase due to inflation, but the business is doing well.
With the increased number of tourists comes a higher demand for a place to stay. The Fairfield Inn, Livingston’s newest hotel, has been able to accommodate them. General manager Kelly Baker said Fairfield maintained a 93% occupancy rate all through summer as well as the past few months. Hotels were one of the hardest hit industries during the pandemic, but Montana businesses were not hit as hard.
As with many other businesses, the Fairfield has had to raise wages to stay competitive, Baker said. They have also struggled keeping dedicated workers. Openings are often in housekeeping which Baker said has a high turnover in employees.
Business is seasonal in many tourism-related fields, and the Fairfield is expecting a rush during the winter. During the slow times, however, workers may have fewer hours or shifts. “One of the things I value about my company is that we avoid cutting back hours if we can,” Baker said.