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Brower: If it’s good enough for the locals, it’s good for visitors too

Patrick Brower
Grand Enterprise Initiative
Patrick Brower, Grand Enterprise Initiative
Patrick Brower/Courtesy Photo

There’s a light going on in the heads of recreation, tourism and government officials in Grand County.

The light suggests: If Grand County is first and foremost a great place for the locals to live and play, then by natural evolution it will be a great place for visitors.

Which may seem intuitively logical and normal at first, but this idea really reflects a change in the point of view for the powers that be in Grand County.

It seems like in the past the focus of so-called tourism, recreation and government here was to beg, borrow and steal just to convince people to come to Grand County to vacation, play and have fun. The marketing, in fact, was sort of desperate.

It reminds me of a bumper sticker I once saw in Steamboat Springs. It said: Stop the brutal marketing of Steamboat.

An evolution to that sort of mindset about how Grand County can accommodate its burgeoning tourism industry suggests, perhaps, that people might just be thinking that we have enough tourists and visitors in our county. The time has come for us to really consider how to best accommodate these visitors, not to beg blindly for more and more to come here.

This evolution of thinking and feeling about our number one industry has dawned on the people of this county quickly in the wake of the COVID-19 economic downturn and the following rapid and overwhelming economic upturn. In some places it has seemed as if the county has been overrun with visitors, both weekend visitors and longer-term visitors in short-term rentals. It has seemed at times as if there were challenges in handling this expanded business.

It hasn’t helped that there has been a severe labor shortage that has caused many local businesses to struggle with how to handle these increased numbers. It hasn’t helped that the cost of real estate and its relative scarcity, for businesses and residents, has challenged people wanting to expand their businesses or people simply wanting to start new businesses. This has also challenged the ability of local workers to live here comfortably.
This challenge of working hard to meet increased demand has, I think, forced many to think hard about why they are in business in the first place. Mostly, they are in business provide an income that allows them to do what they want to do while working in a way that they want to work.

This all comes down to facing up to a central truth that should be driving our mostly tourism-based economy. We first have to make Grand County a good place to live for the locals. If we can do that, then the tourism will naturally follow.

Some people would say that dictates a new mindset. Instead of working really hard just to attract visitors maybe we should work harder on managing visitors and their experiences once they get here. That means making it good for locals first.

This is not to suggest that the “locals” should assume and attitude of sneering at tourists and demonizing them because they’re not “local.” It means embracing what we have as locals and being enthusiastic about sharing it in a manageable way. If locals like it, then visitors will too.
It’s about putting locals first because if it is good for the locals, it’ll be good for the visitors too.

Patrick Brower is the Enterprise Facilitator for the Grand Enterprise Initiative. He offers free and confidential business management coaching to anyone who wants to start or expand a business in Grand County. He is also the author of “KILLDOZER: The True Story of the Colorado Bulldozer Rampage.” He can be reached by calling 970-531-0632 or at patrickbrower@kapoks.org.


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