COVID-19 has taught our community and the country many lessons and changed our priorities and perspectives. Last spring, we saw first-hand what happens when we don’t have visitors: business closures, tax cuts, service cuts.
Sure, you might have enjoyed quieter trails than usual, but it came at a cost. We need visitors to our region to support our economy; However, we also want to maintain our precious quality of life. So how do you find this balance?
Tourism creates jobs and provides income for city services. As we react to current conditions and plan for the future, we must look beyond the economic benefits. We need to focus on stewardship of the environment, protecting our unique culture and heritage, and uplifting our community. This is the destination management work the House has been doing for years, but the COVID-19 pandemic has brought this work to the fore.
Visiting Responsibly is a program we have established to help educate visitors. It is a way to identify what is particularly important to our region and provides a platform to educate and share resources. In order to protect our quality of life and our unique cultural identity, we must clearly define the expectations of our visitors. This became a necessity in 2020 with the restrictions related to the pandemic in Routt County.
Visitors have researched information on what to expect when visiting, and we’ve let them know that we expect visitors to follow our local regulations. Not everyone liked it, and not everyone listened. But we find that most visitors want to respect our culture and values.
Visiting responsibly identifies the behaviors we want to influence. Each category identifies an area of concern, from preventing wildfires to reducing traffic and even how to properly navigate Lincoln, then provides education and resources.
We include health and safety information, giving back, and a reminder to be kind to one another. We also highlight our partnership with Care for Colorado and Leave No Trace, a program that started several years ago and becomes more relevant every year.
However, the best information in the world will be of no use if no one knows it. This is why we have put in place a comprehensive plan to proactively drive visitors to these values and expected actions. We use social media and geotargeted display ads to attract people to our content. We include Visit Responsibly tips on every visitor email we send. Every writer we talk to in our public relations efforts will hear our message.
Recently, the House submitted a proposal to City Council to reallocate the existing 2A accommodation tax, a tax paid by visitors to local accommodation, to go towards destination marketing and management. The Chamber, along with many other government and land agencies, has been implementing destination management practices such as Visiting Responsibly for many years.
We believe it is time to step up our efforts to ensure that tourism continues to add value to our community. Although we have decided to put the ballot initiative on hold for the time being, work continues to be of critical importance. Over the next year, we will be working with City staff and Council members, local businesses and community members to create a pathway to ensure we have the support to move forward.
We all share the responsibility of making our city a better place. Join us and scale up our efforts Visit responsibly. Set an example: let’s model the behaviors we expect from our visitors. Share local knowledge. Don’t assume that someone knows what to do, even if it seems obvious to you.
Share true Steamboat hospitality with visitors and with each other. That driver who just can’t figure out the zipper merger may be a visitor from out of town, or it may be your neighbor. Both deserve some kindness. Finally, contact the Chamber with ideas on what we can include in our content.
In a community where so much of our jobs and income comes directly or indirectly from visitors to our region, it is clear that tourism matters.
Maintaining a balance between promoting our region while protecting the integrity of our resources, the quality of life for residents and the quality of the visitor experience will help ensure that Steamboat remains an amazing place now and for generations to come. come.
Kara Stoller is CEO of Steamboat Springs Chamber.