Inside the Chamber: Let’s embrace high-value tourism for another 130 years
Inside the Chamber
Glenwood Springs is in a beautiful valley surrounded by red rocks merging into Rocky Mountain alpine scenery. The skiing, hiking and all the outdoor recreation opportunities are outstanding. Entertainment and dining options are as plentiful and diverse as in a city, paired with the charm of a mountain community. All of this is topped off by the hot springs wellness offerings that ensure the perfect balance of adventure, health and relaxation.
It’s no wonder that I wanted to move to this valley. As a Vienna expat, I determined that I had literally come too far to settle anywhere mediocre. In the long run, I wouldn’t trade vibrant Vienna for a busy U.S. city or a fabricated resort town. My wish list was ruthless: I wanted history, culture, outdoor recreation, diversity and a real community.
In March 2018, my husband and I moved to the area when I accepted the position as tourism promotion project manager of Visit Glenwood Springs, the tourism department of the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association. It is delightful to live here, and we love the strong sense of community and its people.
It’s a community that welcomes visitors and new residents with open arms. Glenwood Springs is a real year-round town with genuine people that will happily share their local expertise and even their favorite camping spots. Hospitality has deep roots in this community, and visitors can feel that.
Nonetheless, sometimes these genuine locals find themselves overwhelmed by the challenges that come with living in a resort town. It is understandable that one might wonder, “Can July get any busier? Where is my parking spot in historic downtown Glenwood Springs? Why do I have to wait in line to enjoy our ever-improving attractions and restaurants?”
However, tourism plays an important role for the local economy, and visitors are the reason there are so many of the year-round amenities. Some may wonder if we should slow down and stop promoting our community to protect its integrity. Instagram and digital destination marketing sound scary to those hoping for sustainable growth. After all, we want to protect this beautiful area.
I agree that we should choose quality over quantity. We need to attract the kind of visitors who will respect the Care for Colorado Principles. This can’t be done by reducing tourism promotion.
Cutting back tourism marketing while providing the necessary economics for our community would mean basic, affordable Front Range marketing. While we love our short-term visitors and the hustle and bustle of weekends in July, we need to expand the off-peak time periods. Guests who visit on weekdays and in the shoulder-seasons are a true asset, and they help Glenwood Springs’ businesses thrive. It requires a higher budget to attract these visitors.
Attracting visitors who stay longer than two nights and truly experience and appreciate this community takes time and funding. This effort includes PR and content marketing that show people hikes beyond Hanging Lake, international and out-of-state communications to attract high-value visitors during shoulder seasons, and it requires educational marketing about our history, environment and community.
Less budget toward tourism marketing efforts would mean cheaper, conversion-driven media buys attracting mostly bargain hunters and weekend trippers, instead of a healthy, diverse, year-round visitor balance. Sustainable, quality tourism is not achieved by cutting back. It is a long-term effort that takes years to build and forever to sustain.
Visit Glenwood Springs considers this community with every media buy, PR placement, blog post and ad. Besides classic marketing, we provide informational material highlighting the entire community, Leave No Trace education, historic information, walking guides, restaurant guides, etc.
So if you find yourself worried about protecting the integrity of this town, please support sustainable tourism efforts. That is how Glenwood Springs can continue to successfully do what it has done best for over 130 years, which is to thrive as a beautiful, year-round resort town.
Marlene Neidert is tourism promotion project manager for Visit Glenwood Springs, a department of the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association.
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