Residents and business operators from Aspen to Glenwood Springs have an opportunity this month to comment on whether the surge of tourism the past two years has been a good or bad thing, or a mix.
The chambers of commerce in the five Roaring Fork Valley towns are conducting surveys that seek extensive feedback on tourism impacts.
The tourism organizations of Carbondale, Basalt, Glenwood Springs, Aspen and Snowmass Village were selected to participate in the Colorado Tourism Office’s Restart Destinations Program, designed to help plan for recovery from COVID-19 pandemic and long-term economic resiliency.
Kris Mattera, executive director of the Basalt Chamber of Commerce, said the survey results will help the various tourist organizations plan strategies, individually and potentially collectively.
“I think it helps dictate where we go from here,” Mattera said. “That’s why I think the questions are so blunt. We really want to get a litmus test on how people are feeling about the level we’re at.”
The Basalt Chamber sent an email to people on its list Oct. 14 that provided links to the surveys. One survey is directed at Basalt-area residents and the other to business owners and operators.
The questions indeed are blunt. One section in the resident survey asks respondents to rate statements from strongly agree to strongly disagree. One statement says, “Overcrowding by tourists is spoiling our natural resources.”
Another statement says, “The quality of public services has improved due to the tourism industry in Basalt.”
Other statements include, “The growth of tourism is causing prices to rise, making things less affordable for residents.” Again, respondents are urged to indicate whether they strongly disagree, disagree, are neutral, agree or strongly agree.
The Basalt Chamber is urging people to fill out the survey by Oct. 31 so the results can be tabulated and directions charted. If people feel tourism is too overwhelming right now, the chamber will definitely take that into account, Mattera said.
“We are stewards of this community and we take that responsibility very highly and we’re not going to put us in a direction the community doesn’t want us to go,” she said.
Mattera said the chamber’s philosophy has always been about building a sustainable economy.
“I think what we’re looking at is continuing to head in the direction of being very smart about how we promote our area and surrounding trails, mountains and other outdoor rec amenities in a way that still benefits our businesses in the long run,” she said. “We really want to accommodate that homegrown approach of how do we continue to get our businesses to whatever the next level is for them that’s in sustainable fashion.”
After taking a hit early in the COVID-19 pandemic, Basalt’s economy has surged. Sales in July 2021 were up 24% compared to what was a very strong July 2020. Year-to-date through July, sales tax collections were up 18.7% from the same period in 2020.
The Basalt Chamber of Commerce doesn’t undertake extensive tourism marketing, especially when compared to other towns in the Roaring Fork Valley. The Basalt Chamber receives 1% of the town’s 4% lodging tax. In 2019, that produced $76,133 for the chamber. The funds were used for marketing.
The link for the Basalt-area residents survey is surveymonkey.com/r/8G5Q9LM.
Other tourism bureaus in the valley have embraced the tourism impact surveys with varying levels of gusto. Carbondale Tourism alerted people on its email list about the survey opportunity on Sept. 30.
Spokeswoman Sarah-Jane Johnson said the surveys are part of a groundbreaking Colorado Tourism Office program that the Roaring Fork Valley towns were selected to participate in. As part of the bigger program the CTO will provide the valley’s tourism organizations will each receive a recovery assessment, a full-day planning session, 75 hours of technical assistance and $10,000 of direct marketing support.
Residents of Carbondale can find the survey at surveymonkey.com/r/27FMYKD.
Glenwood Springs residents can go to SurveyMonkey.com/r/2B3KDKN.
Aspen Chamber Resort Association provided a link to the business owner stakeholder survey in its most recent newsletter. It previously sought opinions in a similar Resident Sentiment Survey. Snowmass Tourism said residents who want to fill out the survey can do at surveymonkey.com/r/WDZKJB5.
A separate stakeholder survey for business owners and operators throughout the valley can be found at surveymonkey.com/r/GN6J86G.