RED LODGE - While the major debris from this June's flooding has been picked up, businesses in Red Lodge are now seeing the economic damage that the loss of tourism caused.
Sherry Weamer, executive director of the Red Lodge Area Chamber of Commerce, understands just how important tourism is to the town’s economy.
“Tourism is a real economic driver for us,” Weamer said Tuesday. “It’s incredibly important.”
In a normal summer, Red Lodge is full of visitors and hotels, restaurants and other retailers thrive because of it. Instead, this year, disaster struck.
“The flood went out to the whole country, and it’s hard for people to understand that we have put ourselves back together,” said Weamer.
Now that summer has officially come to an end, the chamber is starting to understand just how much the flooding impacted local tourism.
“In talking to the businesses and hotels, the report is that we’re down anywhere from 10-40 percent. Financially, it’s a struggle right now for a lot of these places to make the repairs happen,” said Weamer.
One of the buildings hit the hardest by the flood was the Yodeler Motel on the southern end of downtown. At its peak, the water poured into the bottom-level floors, destroying nearly half of the available rooms.
Motel owner Mac Dean said the flooding certainly did not help his business.
“I believe we’re down 75 percent. I mean, I haven’t put the numbers exactly to it, but typically I couldn’t do an interview with you because the phone would be ringing,” Dean said in an interview with MTN News.
The timing of the flooding could not have been worse for the motel, either. The motel had just finished some remodeling, and Dean said it was set for a record-breaking summer.
“Before the flood, we were set to break records. We had more reservations than we’ve had since we purchased it,” Dean said, who's owned the Yodeler for 14 years.
The Yodeler isn’t the only business that is dealing with the repercussions of the flood, as many businesses reported much lower revenue than in previous years. Tourists chose to cancel their trips when the flooding hit, assuming that the town would be closed for the rest of the summer.
Even though the summer days have passed, the community of Red Lodge is still encouraging people to come visit.
“It’s the perfect time to come to Red Lodge. The weather is perfect, there’s lots going on, and you can help support our darling downtown,” Weamer said.
It’s a community that could certainly use help after a disastrous summer showed just how vital tourism is to its livelihood.
“Tourism is what we’re based on. I mean we’re a tourist town. If we don’t have tourism, we’re dead,” Dean said.