Our View: Hug a tourist
Memorial Day weekend marked the official start of summer, and in Steamboat Springs, that signals longer lines at the grocery store, more people enjoying our trails and outdoor spaces, an increase in traffic and fewer available parking places downtown. But it also means more business for our local restaurants, retail stores and lodging properties, and after a pandemic year, it’s awesome to see so many smiling people out and about, enjoying the town we get to live in year round.
With this shift from mud season to busy summer, we encourage locals to breathe deep, relax and embrace our visitors rather than resenting them. This past year has been rough on everyone, and one negative side effect of the pandemic seems to be a rise in anti-tourism sentiment that developed during the winter and resurfaced again with the start of summer. It’s a sentiment that plays into many conversational threads from housing to trails to airline service.
We recognize the inconvenience that comes with thousands of people descending on Steamboat in the summer months, but we think some locals need an attitude adjustment to appreciating our visitors rather than resenting them.
Through their local spending, visitors support the services locals expect the city to provide. Approximately 65% of the city’s general fund budget comes from sales tax revenue, and Steamboat’s economic vitality is tied to tourism. Many longtime locals can describe how the town used to shut down when the mountain closed, and now, thanks to summer marketing and a number of high profile events and festivals held throughout the summer months, the shoulder seasons are getting shorter, allowing businesses to operate year-round and ending the need for locals to leave town to find jobs elsewhere in the offseason, which used to be the case.
We seem to forget the qualities that drew us to Steamboat — access to outdoor recreation, beautiful open spaces, a small-town community feel — are the same ones that make people want to spend a weekend or a week in our beautiful town.
At issue: An anti-tourism sentiment seems to have resurfaced in Steamboat Springs following a pandemic year.
Our View: The double-edged sword of a busy summer requires a fresh mindset.
• Logan Molen, publisher
• Lisa Schlichtman, editor
• Marion Kahn, community representative
• Laraine Martin, community representative
Contact the Editorial Board at 970-871-4221 or lschlichtman@SteamboatPilot.com.
Steamboat is known for its western hospitality, and that generosity of spirit should extend to those paying us a visit. We realize there are fears that these growing crowds will love our outdoor areas to death or trash our rivers, but it’s our impression that the majority of people who visit want to be good stewards of Steamboat and maybe just need a little guidance from those who live here.
Rather than complaining about crowds or making fun of people for trying to cross Lincoln Avenue at Sixth Street, why not look for opportunities to help visitors by warning them not to open their driver’s side door into traffic when they park downtown on a busy day or politely explaining trail etiquette to them while riding up Emerald Mountain or walking along the Yampa River Core Trail.
We also think it’s important for locals to be aware of a shift in Steamboat’s approach to tourism. In recent years, the Steamboat Springs Chamber has adopted new destination management practices aimed at increasing visitors and adding events during slower months in the spring and late fall rather than pursuing more traditional tourism marketing strategies year-round.
Very few new events or festivals have been added to the calendar during the busiest times of summer, and that planning is on purpose. We believe community leaders are aware of the impact tourism can have on quality of life, and they are thinking creatively to balance those impacts with the value that comes from attracting visitors to town.
We are lucky to live In a place where people want to vacation, and that should make us feel proud, not irritated. Steamboat has a reputation for welcoming newcomers in a way that tips a cowboy hat to our ranching roots, and wouldn’t it be great if locals viewed themselves as ambassadors for the community and found ways to connect with our visitors in positive ways.
If you see someone looking at an outdoor menu, walk up to them and offer them a list of your favorite restaurants. When someone is walking their dog off leash in the wrong place, politely give them directions to one of our dog-friendly parks, and when a visitor is standing at the intersection of two mountain bike trails looking perplexed, hop off your bike and point them in the right direction based on their ability. These encounters have the potential to enhance someone’s visit to Steamboat, and this type of interaction can also make you feel really good for helping someone else enjoy the amenities we can sometimes take for granted.
And for those of you who can’t stomach the crowds, make plans now to escape town during the summer’s busiest weekends. Give Telluride or Vail a visit or grab your tent and wander into the wilderness. It’s easy to understand why Steamboat is such a draw to so many people, and sometimes, getting away for a day or two makes us return home with more gratitude for where we live.
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