Our view: Steamboat needs to embrace tourism
As summer begins to wind down in the Yampa Valley, the community discussion surrounding summer tourism is still simmering. A large number of letters to the editor on this topic have been published in the Steamboat Pilot & Today over the past several weeks with locals voicing their opinions on both sides of the issue.
Some people are asking whether Steamboat has reached its limit for hosting festivals and special events in the summer while others are reminding people of what Steamboat was like when it virtually shut down for a half a year after the ski mountain closed.
The debate is a healthy one, and we’re glad Steamboat is the kind of place where people engage in constructive discussions about issues that matter. We also believe it’s important for community leaders to listen to input from local citizens and look for ways to mitigate the impact summer tourism may be having on the lives of those who live and work here.
This debate comes down to the fact that Steamboat’s economic vitality is tied to tourism. The money visitors spend here supports the infrastructure and amenities we enjoy as residents.
As long as the city derives its revenue from sales tax dollars, we must find ways to attract tourists to Steamboat during all seasons of the year, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be some foresight given to spreading out festivals over multiple weekends and ensuring that event organizers have a plan in place for trash pickup and traffic control.
Ultimately, we believe it’s vital to Steamboat Springs’ future that the city continue to invest in the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association’s summer marketing efforts.
In 2017, the Chamber’s marketing budget was $750,000, up from $613,000 in 2007 but considerably less than the summer marketing dollars spent by other mountain towns. Special event funding in Steamboat Springs has remained constant since 2008 at $100,000 a year.
A few more events were added to this summer’s line-up but efforts were made by chamber leaders to focus on increasing tourism in the months of June and September when visitor numbers are traditionally lower than the busier months of July and August.
Lodging occupancy numbers provided by DestiMetrics show that paid occupancy (or rooms booked) in Steamboat Springs was down 6 percent in May, down 4 percent in June and up 4 percent in July. Preliminary projections show occupancy is pacing up 8 percent in August.
Based on these statistics, it appears that tourism has increased slightly this summer, but there has not been a visitor boom by any means.
And it’s also important to remember how our communities benefit from an influx of visitors.
According to a study conducted by Dean Runyan Associates, travel spending in Routt County amounted to $387 million in 2016, which equated to $14.3 million in tax revenue. The study also pointed out that tourism in Routt County supports 4,000 jobs and a total annual payroll of $178.5 million.
We don’t believe, as some have stated, that Steamboat is being loved to death. We think Steamboat is an amazing place to visit, and more and more people are discovering what our community has to offer. And like many of us, people come for the skiing and then discover the beauty of the summer, and it’s hard to keep them from coming back, again and again. And for that, we should be grateful.
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