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Plowing to open Yellowstone National Park’s roads for the travel season is just beginning, and area businesses are wondering whether travelers will come to the park.

While the coronavirus pandemic is putting a stranglehold on some businesses that cling to the National Park System (NPS), others seem to be faring better, at least early on during the economic downward slide, according to the National Parks Traveler.

With Xanterra Parks & Resorts idling its lodging and food service operations within Yellowstone National Park at least until May 21, businesses in the gateway community of West Yellowstone, Mont., may be facing some tough times as tourist traffic slumps.

Despite that, campground owner Steve Linde currently is seeing more reservations than cancellations. Owner and general manager of two family-owned campgrounds since 1982, Yellowstone Park/West Gate Kampgrounds of America (KOA) and Yellowstone Park/Mountainside KOA Journey, plus a 44-room Super 8 Hotel in town, Linde attributes the delay in cancellations to several factors.

One, he said, is optimism that the spread of Covid-19 will slow in the coming months. The other is KOA’s generous cancellation policy, which allows travelers to cancel just two days prior to their arrival date.

Convenience stores, small eateries, and laundry facilities within his campgrounds and hotel provide additional business revenue.

Linde’s campgrounds – located a mile-and-a-half from each other in the small, pine forest-wrapped town — offer some 500 campsites total, including 60 tent sites and some 85 cabins at the national park’s west entrance. He employs 80 people, who are nearly all seasonal workers from across the country and overseas.

Many are work campers who travel in RVs and split their season between parks in the northern and southern parts of the country, moving with the seasons.

The delays of the season and looming uncertainty about subsequent months have resulted in some cancellations, which Linde finds understandable. One guest from Denmark canceled because he doesn’t know whether policies at that time will allow travel to the United States. And some folks who are simply playing it safe, he said.

Linde said one traveler canceled purely for economic reasons.

“He told me, ‘My 401K got wiped out and that’s how I paid for my trips,’” Linde explained during a phone conversation. “So, he’s thinking he’s going to tighten his belt and not travel at all. I can definitely sense panic in some people.”

Although there have been travelers who have expressed a reasonable amount of apprehension to Linde, he does find it strange that some guests are canceling reservations for August and September.

“When I try to talk to them [about the reason they are canceling], I get various responses. A lot of them say, ‘We’re just not taking any chances.’ But September is so far out there, why would they be canceling that early?” he wondered aloud.

The number of reservations at his facilities continues to exceed cancellations, however. Linde said that when he explains the KOA cancellation policy to guests, a few ultimately decide to hold onto their reservations and “wait and see.”

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