Grand County Residents invited to participate in sustainable tourism stakeholder survey

Grand County Colorado Tourism Board asks for public input

Willow Creek Reservoir seen from C Lazy U Ranch. The year-round guest ranch draws in tourists from around the U.S., Canada, and Europe for a Western experience. Grand County Colorado Tourism Board’s tourism study will ask for public input on the impact of tourism.
Meg Soyars/Sky-Hi News


Winter Park Resort is a tourist mecca for Grand County, drawing in nearly 1 million visitors each year for skiing, mountain biking,and hiking. The Grand County Colorado Tourism Board is working to make sure this high volume of tourism is sustainable, both socially and environmentally.
Meg Soyars/Sky-Hi News

Bluebird skies and green grass signal that summer is here in Grand County. Summer brings more visitors eager to hike Grand’s picturesque trails, fish and raft in the rivers, and camp in the abundant forests. According to Ron Ellis, president of the Grand County Colorado Tourism Board, the last two years have been record-setting for the tourist industry. To create a blueprint for this essential industry, the board is conducting a sustainable tourism study. Sustainable tourism seeks to benefit the society and natural resources of resort destinations like Grand County.

Last week, the tourism board launched a sustainable tourism stakeholder survey to ask for public input. The survey is part of the first phase of board’s Study of Sustainable Travel, spearheaded by consultants Coraggio Group. The survey will offer the board insight into how the community feels about tourism, plus its impact on the economy, environment and quality of life for Grand County residents.

By answering the survey, residents can help the board create a plan that positively impacts Grand’s economy, while at the same time preserving quality of life for residents and respecting the area’s beautiful natural environment and delicate ecosystem.

Grand County residents are invited to participate in the survey until the end of the day on May 27 by visiting The survey takes about 15 minutes to complete. Input will be sent directly to the Coraggio Group.

Coraggio Group, a business management consulting firm based in Portland, Oregon, is leading the study. Their tourism practice brings together urban planners, economists, destination strategists and organizational development experts who create a “total destination health” plan for communities. Coraggio Group’s clients have included Travel Oregon, the San Francisco Travel Association, the Arizona Office of Tourism and more.

“We are so excited to be working with Grand County on this project,” said Trever Cartwright, founder of Coraggio Group, in a news release. “Tourism is one of the county’s most important industries, and this plan will ensure tourism continues to be a driving force in the future.”

The board’s study of sustainable travel initiative launched in March and will conclude at the end of October. Residents will be able to see the results of the study in early November. The study’s strategic plan includes three stages:

  • Get Clear — virtual immersion sessions, background data review, survey design, analysis and stakeholder engagement
  • Get Focused — strategic work planning sessions
  • Get Moving — plan finalization work session, board review and revision and strategic plan documentation

“This effort celebrates the importance of tourism to the Grand County community, and it’s important that we engage as many voices as possible from across our county to determine how to balance the future of the tourism industry with the needs of the community through responsible travel practices,” said Ellis.

Ellis explained the Grand County Colorado Tourism Board realized that sustainable tourism has become a topic of concern for resort destinations around the globe.

“A vision of what sustainable tourism means to Grand County and a road map for the future requires input from stakeholders in the community and can help individual communities, resorts and government entities focus their strategies to achieve a balance that works for Grand County,” Ellis said.

The Devil’s Thumb Trail takes hikers up to a famous rock outcropping known as the Devil’s Thumb. This was a sacred site for the Ute and Arapahoe tribes, who made a truce here and “buried the devil,” leaving the thumb exposed as reminder of the evils of war. Today, visitors from all over the country hike up to the Thumb to enjoy views of the lakes and the Continental Divide.
Meg Soyars/Sky-Hi News

Ellis conceded that the trickiest part of the study is finding which strategies work for all facets of the county.

“It’s not a simple thing to balance those competing interests, because they do compete,” Ellis said. “Winter Park has a different set of issues than Granby, Grand Lake or Kremmling.”

The online survey will be one piece of this puzzle, as ideally residents throughout East and West Grand can contribute their thoughts on sustainable tourism.

Overall, the study will be an educational experience for the stakeholders.

“We all have some learning to do in this process,” Ellis said. “The tourism industry needs to think about how to do business without causing harm to the ecosystem. … (Also) the residents need to understand the importance of tourism for our economy.”

Tourism affects everything in Grand, from home construction and property values to how many restaurants and shops are in the area to how much gets invested in improving trail systems and outdoor recreation.

“We wouldn’t have all these attractions and amenities without tourism,” Ellis said. “We need to protect the tourism industry as much as possible for our economic benefit, but not at the cost of the environment, natural assets or quality of life for people who live here.”

Tourism is a double-edged sword. It drives the economy and development of the county, yet at the same time, too much visitor traffic can be damaging to the environment and locals. Visitors will always be drawn to Grand’s pristine outdoors and welcoming small towns, so stakeholders must be stewards of the land and people the economy depends on.

The board said it aims to drive tourism to Grand County and increase bookings through chambers, lodging properties, activity vendors and other tourism entities. The board operates through funds generated by the 1.8% lodging tax paid by visitors staying in lodging properties, excluding the Town of Winter Park. Grand County taxpayers do not pay for tourism board expenditures. Additional funding comes through grants from the Colorado Tourism Office and website advertising.


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