April 2, 2021 by Jennifer Wesselhoff

Park City operates in a vast universe of tourism destinations. We are part of one of the planet's largest industries; statista.com estimates tourism contributed $9.25 trillion to the worldwide economy in 2019.

Destinations have much to learn from each other, so I jump at every chance to meet with national-level tourism management and thought leaders. That's how I found myself on a recent ETourism Summit panel with experts such as Colorado Tourism Office Director Cathy Ritter; Kalani L. Ka'anā'anā, Director of Hawaiian Cultural Affairs and Natural Resources with the Hawai'i Tourism Authority (HTA), and Amir Eylon, President and Partner of Longwoods International, a global leader in groundbreaking research, keen insights, and first-class counsel for management services.;

I was impressed with the Hawaii Community-Based Tourism Program, bringing locals and tourism practitioners together to discuss each island's visitor industry and its impact.  My work in Sedona AZ on the Sustainable Tourism Plan had some similarities.  One outcome in Hawaii: the HTA is working toward Community Based Destination Management Plans. Their key indicators place resident sentiment on equal footing with visitor satisfaction, per day spending, and total visitor expenditures.  This is an essential step in earning community credibility for destination management plans.

Cathy Ritter brought up Colorado's statewide "Are you Colo-Ready?" This Destination Stewardship Plan includes dispersing visitors to less-visited (but still spectacular) locales, sharing Colorado's environmental ethics with visitors, and creating alliances to convey a consistent message of environmental responsibility to all stakeholders, especially visitors. These strategies resulted in part from public input.

I listened and shared thoughts on my experience in building community support for a comprehensive tourism management plan. I also offered insights into where we see tourism headed in Park City  – thoughts I want to share with you. 

First, Park City's primary focus remains squarely on short-term recovery and long-term economic resiliency. Businesses are suffering, and thousands of people remain out of work. The Chamber|Bureau is working hard to support local businesses in many ways, such as keeping employers informed on best practices, backing rapid testing for small businesses, and sponsoring free meals for vaccine station workers. Our marketing encourages visitors to behave responsibly and do their part to keep Park City safe for everyone. 

Our efforts, along with the commitment of all Parkites, have contributed to Park City’s economic recovery while helping minimize the spread of the virus.  The arrival of COVID vaccines is a game-changer. But the fight is not over.  We need to look ahead, watch travel trends, and listen to what visitors tell us so we are ready to welcome them once again.

The research shows today's traveler has a heightened appreciation for the outdoors and our connection to each other.  This moment may be a critical inflection point; a chance to expand visitor awareness so they are inspired to join us in sustaining a thriving economy while protecting our environment and celebrating our unique way of living.

In my next post, I will follow up on that thought – and talk about what we mean when we use the terms "sustainable tourism" and "tourism management."