FREMONT COUNTY — The rafting business in Southern Colorado is experiencing a rebound from the pandemic.
"The pendulum is swinging back so to speak as far as people's desire to get out,” said Echo Canyon River Expeditions, Owner, Andy Neinas.
There is a surge of people booking reservations. A year ago family trips got canceled because of COVID-19 concerns. Stephen Heffington and his family opted out of a senior trip for their daughter. A year later they feel better about travel, yet still considered the pandemic while deciding on a destination.
"We actually were looking for something that was outside,” said Heffington. “So, we are doing several outdoor activities."
On the Friday leading up to Memorial Day weekend, they spent the day with a rafting guide on the Arkansas River.
"A lot of fun. The rapids are amazing,” said Heffington’s daughter Ashley. She also said the water is cold.
Travel trends are tracked in Colorado. The Heffington’s are part of an increased number of visitors driving extended distances. Visitors from Texas and Oklahoma are common. The Heffington’s drove from Nashville. During the pandemic, what is called the “drive market” has expanded.
"I think we can open that circle up a little wider,” said Neinas, “Normally we kind of cultivate from the four to six-hour market. Clearly, we're seeing people in the eight to 12-hour market." Neinas points out a license plate from Florida in the parking lot of his business.
Rafting outfitters faired better during the early days of the pandemic than many other businesses. They still experienced much lower revenue than average years. This year could counter the belt-tightening required a year ago.
"We just happen to be, I think within the bullseye of what Americans are comfortable with,” said Neinas, “That naturally distanced outdoor activity combined with the fact people really are itching to get outside.”
Reservations are beyond Memorial Day Weekend; they are up for most of the summer ahead.