Colorado mountain towns say they can’t handle any more tourists amid labor, housing crises |

Colorado mountain towns say they can’t handle any more tourists amid labor, housing crises

Jason Blevins
Colorado Sun
Visitors to Crested Butte, Colorado patronize restaurants and businesses along Elk Avenue with "Help Wanted" signs posted in the windows and doors on June 19,2021. Because many of the affordable long term rental properties in Crested Butte have been converted into expensive short term rentals to serve tourists and visitors, the employees and local people who work in the town can no longer afford to live there. Many businesses have been forced to reduce hours and services because there are not enough employees; some businesses have even been forced to close. Visitors have been asked to have patience while the town grapples with the problem. (Dean Krakel, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Crested Butte has pulled its summer ads as businesses struggle to accommodate crowds. A Telluride councilwoman wants to redirect tourism funding toward housing. The Colorado Tourism Office is without a leader. Chaffee County commissioners rejected a 20,000-person annual music festival.

Angst over tourism is growing as mountain communities emerge from crowd-restricting pandemic closures. Overlapping waves of visitors and new residents are amplifying an unprecedented labor shortage and housing crunch. And with that seasonal distress comes a growing call to silence the statewide promotion of Colorado as a vacation wonderland.

“It’s a carrying capacity issue,” said Geneva Shaunette, a Telluride town council member who wants to redirect $2 million a year to workforce housing from tourism-campaign spending. “With the drastic situation we are experiencing with housing and a lack of employees we simply cannot handle that many people. We need to ease off the gas of marketing. Telluride already is on the map. The whole ‘Come to Telluride because how great it is,’ we physically can’t handle that anymore. And we have many better and more important things to spend our money on.”

Tourism is in the crosshairs in mountain towns in Colorado while state economic development champions are offering a total of $10 million to organizers who bring groups and events to the state.

Vacationers are pouring into Colorado resort communities, and overworked and underhoused locals feel the crowds are pushing their valleys beyond capacity. Resort town tourism leaders, who long ago began transitioning away from pure marketing toward resource-protecting destination stewardship, are adjusting their messages to not just the visitors, but also locals.

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