Perhaps we can all relate to the perils of learning to ski. Every Sunday, our coach, Vicki Gwin with the PCMR Local Women’s Program, talks about “flow” – the balance, harmony, or connection between movements. Her insights have me reflecting on sustainable tourism, which is all about flow and connections - balancing our economy and quality of life in a fast-moving environment.
In our recent online survey, some people felt sustainable tourism means stopping all development (leaning too far on the inside ski); others thought it opened the door to excessive growth that tramples our environment and quality of life (leaning too far back on the ski).
It’s about nether. Like skiing, sustainable tourism doesn’t favor one side over another; it strives for balance and being ready to constantly adjust to the natural flow.
In a few weeks, we will unveil a research-based destination assessment for Park City from the experts at the Global Sustainable Tourism Council. Together with the thousands of survey responses, their assessment is a major step as the Chamber/Bureau, Park City government, Summit County, and our residents work together on a blueprint to keep Park City healthy and pristine for generations to come.
Here are a just few approaches that strike a tourism balance:
It’s about better, not more. Gone are the days when tourism meant drawing in as many people as possible. Sustainable tourism sees in the context of our environment and quality of life and how each affects the other. With a more nuanced view, we can celebrate the positives and mitigate the negatives.
Better visitor education. Reaching out to help people recreate responsibly becomes a critical tool. For example, the Leave No Trace 7 Principles are an easy-to-practice summary of respectful environmental interaction. Encouraging visitors to use transit reduces congestion and parking problems. Visitors become sensitized, helping us practice environmental balance.
Dispersion Sustainable tourism means balancing visitors’ desire to recreate in our mountains with the need to spread them around so that popular areas don’t get loved to death. Promoting lesser-known but equally thrilling locations (that have capacity) is one way to do it. Offering transportation options is another.
Embracing our History and Culture. Park City has a storied history with all the romance of the Old West. That has enormous appeal to locals and visitors alike. From Olympic Park to the Egyptian Theatre, our cultural amenities are beloved by our locals and are a hit with visitors. Carefully supported, these assets can attract a new type of visitor with a reduced environmental impact while celebrating our sense of place and community character.
Ultimately, sustainable tourism protects our environment, ensures our small-town character and sense of connection, and celebrates our culture while offering more opportunities for us and our visitors to get to know each other.
So, when you think sustainable tourism, don’t get too far over your skis, or lean too much into the turn. It’s about learning what sustainable tourism means to PC and joining us in “finding the flow,” as Vicki would say, the well-balanced sweet spot, both on and off the mountain.