Letter: Is Steamboat still family friendly or has it become Partytown, USA?
The Steamboat Pilot & Today’s article reporting that the new STR tax is not having a significant impact on occupancy rates is encouraging, providing data on one important variable related to the rising cost of Steamboat as a destination. But this statistic reports the number of units rented, not the mix or number of people per unit. As the Pilot’s editors have indicated, the city needs to engage in destination management and, I would say, to identify the type of destination Steamboat aspires to be, what types of visitors it wants to attract and what actions this requires.
As someone who has spent years living on the mountain during peak seasons, I have watched the number of families coming to Steamboat decrease, replaced by high-density groups of affluent, often self-entitled and obnoxious young people coming to ski, raft, bike, swim and to “party hearty,” often leaving behind their trash and vomit, fighting in the streets and creating loud late-night noise.
In its zeal to contain the number of short-term housing units and claiming to want to “preserve” Steamboat’s quiet rural western town atmosphere, City Council deliberately excluded discussion of the impacts of its decisions on Steamboat’s competitiveness or market fit. City Council needs to recognize that Steamboat is now a vibrant rural-western-themed sports-tourist destination endowed with authentic rural western infrastructure, no longer that authentic rural western town, with an economy that is almost completely tourism reliant.
Steamboat’s “family-friendly” and “party-hearty” identities are in growing conflict. The increase in obnoxious, offensive behavior is having a “snowball effect” — families are being put off by bad behavior and don’t return, often spreading a negative Steamboat image. If Steamboat wants to continue to attract families, it must determine which types of families it wants to attract and how to attract them. For many families, Steamboat’s rising prices make it unaffordable. For more well-off families, much of Steamboat’s current short-term housing stock is unacceptable. Implicit in City Council’s decisions on costs is a preference for cramming as many people as possible into the existing sub-standard short-term housing with a resulting increased college dormitory-like atmosphere on the mountain.
If Steamboat wants to remain family-friendly, then, as part of its destination management program, it must make this a top priority and identify and address issues related to attracting families. It’s time for City Council to cease its open hostility to short-term visitors and owners of short-term rental units and consider their interests.
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