The kick-off to summer fun and travel the Memorial Day weekend gives people of all ages reason to celebrate. For children, it means no school. For families, it means vacations. For retirees, it means extended visits with grandchildren. For tourism-related and other businesses, it means increased revenues.
"The bookings for this summer are ahead across all the sources bus tours, individuals, and foreign and American travelers," Comfort Inn - Yosemite Area General Manager Jerry Rankin said. "This is particularly true for the Memorial Day weekend. Even though we sold out last Memorial Day, it was later than usual. This year, we have earlier bookings and our rates are staying pretty firm. This is shaping up to be our best year ever, and I'm hoping that's true all over town."
The Best Western Plus Yosemite Gateway Inn is experiencing the same earlier and heavier bookings for the summer season.
"Generally, we start filling up about the first week in May, but this year, we've been booked everyday since mid-April," Bill Putnam, general manager of the Best Western said. "Barring any major problems, like a fire or park closure, I have a good feeling about this year. It looks like it's going to be a tremendous summer."
Based on a trend that can be seen across the country where visitation is up, and travelers are already traveling, Dan Cunning, CEO of the Yosemite Sierra Visitors Bureau also predicts a terrific tourist season.
"I think it's going to be a great year," Cunning said, "and we expect a fantastic Memorial Day weekend. We have great weather, and the Yosemite waterfalls are at their peak right now even though we have had a drier year, it's an amazing experience for our visitors."
Although the tourist magnet Bass Lake is about 16 feet below capacity due to this year's drought, and many private and commercial boat slips are sitting on land, large crowds are still expected for the weekend as temperatures begin to rise. The lake, when full, holds 45,410 acre-feet of water and it is currently at about 65% of that.
"While the lack of rain has affected the lake's water level, the lake remains very usable for boating, fishing and swimming," said Marc Sobel, president of the Bass Lake Homeowners Association. "About half of the docks are without water. Of course, now we have great beaches."
Two early visitors to the area Londoners Carol and Andrew Staples began their three-week visit to the states last week. While it wasn't their first time to the U.S., it was their first time in Eastern Madera County, and their first visit to Yosemite National Park. They planned on riding the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad after enjoying a complimentary breakfast at the Comfort Inn.
"We're enjoying the small town of Oakhurst and Yosemite is just incredible," Andrew said. "Usually when you see new things, you spend a couple of minutes taking it in we spent a half-hour just sitting at Glacier Point."