Lost Island Waterpark seeing an increase in attendance as Iowa creates incentives to travel around the state

Published: Jul. 10, 2021 at 5:49 AM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - The Iowa Tourism Office said the tourism industry is having a better year during 2021 than 2020, but the industry is still not at the levels seen before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States.

Jessica O’Riley, who is the communications manager for the Iowa Tourism Office, said the department created incentives to help increase the number of people traveling across the states. She said the department hopes incentives like gift cards, raffles, and prizes can push people still hesitant to travel.

“If they were on the fence before, this is just what they need to push them out the door,” O’Riley said.

People can enter a raffle for a $200 gift card when they create a potential trip on the department’s Build Your Trip website. The department was giving a $25 gift card for everyone who made a trip on the website, but the department ran out of gift cards in less than 48 hours.

O’Riley said there was no way for the department to verify people actually went on the trips they created. However, she said it’s valuable to have a conversation.

“Obviously we would love to have them here,” O’Riley said. “But even just the discussion about traveling Iowa helps. People think about it, keep it top of mind when they are looking to go out the door.”

The tourism office will also give people prizes for going to different breweries, wineries and driving on different byways through its’ passport program. There is a method to prove people actually visited a place in Iowa.

Iowa travel dropped by more than 70% in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Tourism in Iowa generates nearly $9 billion in expenditures and $517.5 million in state taxes while employing 70,200 people statewide. Some of those people work at the Lost Island Waterpark in Waterloo, which USA Today voted second in the country as the best outdoor waterpark in 2021.

Matt Nieman, who is the general manager at Lost Island Waterpark, said the pent-up demand is leading to an increase in attendance.

He also said the weather in June helped increase attendance numbers as well.

“We’re seeing about a 20%, 30% increase off of a normal year,” Nieman said. “So it’s been substantial.”

He said incentives and advertising from places like the tourism office also help attractions like Lost Island Waterpark.

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