County’s lodging ban will be allowed to expire at month’s end
Editor’s note: This article was updated at 10 a.m. Wednesday to reflect that short-term rentals’ ability to resume business is still uncertain when the local order expires as they are still considered an exception to opening per state guidelines.
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Routt County’s public health order banning lodging due to the novel coronavirus is set to expire May 31, and commissioners decided Tuesday that it will be not be extended.
Lodging companies, including hotels, motels and campgrounds, will now be allowed to resume business as of June 1. The ban, enacted in March, initially was scheduled to expire April 24 but was later extended to the end of May.
With a majority of large summer events being canceled, it’s expected that lodging won’t see as much business as years past. Because of that, the commissioners did not see the need to set capacity limits on lodging at this time.
“Our summer tourism is largely driven by these events,” Commissioner Beth Melton said.
Melton has considered the lodging ban to be one of the most effective tools to limit outside travel to the area, which has been a top concern in the fight against the pandemic.
Melton said it’s expected that some lodging wouldn’t reach more than 25% of capacity this summer. Bookings for June are already down by 50%, she said.
Robin Craigen, vice chairperson of the Steamboat Springs Lodging Association and president and CEO of Moving Mountains, said it’s an encouraging sign that the county is allowing the ban to expire.
“We’re concerned about the safety of our community, but we’re also concerned about its economic health,” Craigen said. “Without outside visitors, we’re not going to make it.”
Despite not having the usual summer events, there’s still so much to do and appreciate as a visitor to Steamboat and Routt County, he said.
Instead of voting to extend the ban, the commissioners decided to let it expire at which point the county would follow whatever guidelines are set forth by the state.
The lodging association, working with the county commissioners, is seeking clarification from the governor’s office to determine if professionally managed vacation rentals are excluded from opening at this time, according to Craigen. If they are excluded, they will seek a variance to open with the other lodging properties June 1.
“I think we’re comfortable with this plan,” said Dr. Brian Harrington, Routt County Public Health medical officer.
Melton suggested that local short-term rentals and lodging businesses help circulate information from the county and state regarding cleaning of units and ensure that proper mitigation plans are in place and followed.
The county’s site mitigation protocols will still need to be followed at lodging facilities, according to the commissioners.
“Routt County’s Public Health Order 2020-03 has clear guidelines for keeping employees and guests safe, and everyone should follow these guidelines,” Commissioner Tim Corrigan said. “If you are making money on any type of lodging, you need to follow the protocol.”
The lodging association last week submitted the mitigation procedures it would follow upon reopening, Craigen said. That includes guidelines that follow the American Hotel and Lodging Association’s “Stay Safe” initiative and the Vacation Rental Management Association’s COVID-19 cleaning guidelines.
“We want to ensure a safe and secure experience coming here,” Craigen said. “It’s safe to come here, and we’re trying to reassure our community that it’s safe to have (tourists) here.”
To reach Bryce Martin, call 970-871-4206 or email bmartin@SteamboatPilot.com.
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