You are on page 1of 8

PhD PROPOSAL FOR A STUDY:

University of Derby, United Kingdom


THE ECONOMIC IMPACT OF TOURISM ON VAIL, COLORADO,THE WHITE RIVER NATIONAL FOREST,AND ITS REGIONAL COMMUNITES

August 15, 2001

Brian M Touray MSc Griffith University

Introduction Revisions to the Colorado State tourism tax in 1992 resulted in necessary restructuring of the tourism offices and the scope of how that entity conducts its business. New visions for the State's tourist attractions and resorts, with emphasis on forging an alliance of environmentalists, communities, resort destinations and tour packagers in the White River National Forest region, has impacted well-known and frequented areas such as Vail (ranked the No. 1 ski area in North America according to Ski Magazine) and Aspen resorts, and the surrounding communities. The collaborative effort, in conjunction with revised legislation, intends to create a sustainable tourism project, designed to promote the economic development of the most rural and economically struggling communities as well as preserve the habitat. The Colorado Tourism Board and Tourism Authority had shouldered this burden of promoting Colorado tourism, with dwindling funds to help protect unspoiled habitats. Because the separate entities were working toward the same goals and competing for funding, the Colorado Tourism Office, to resolve environmental, economic and tourism-related issues, was formed ("Colorado Tourism board Holds Initial Meeting",

2000). Today, however, Colorado remains the only state without a state-financed tourism promotion operation. Statement of Problem The proposed study will examine the economic impact of tourism on Vail and the surrounding regional community, inlight of these developments. Priorities placed on physical and biological resources, as well as available funding, have expanded the economic impacts on established tourist and resort attractions, as well as the surrounding rural communities. Proposed changes in forest planning and uncertainty about changes initiated at the national level add to questions about future growth and health of tourism in the White River National Forest area. Public involvement is viewed as a key issue and goal in regional collaborating and economic area growth. For example, not only do Vail and Aspen attract ski and snoworiented tourism, but the upper Colorado River area also has experienced local economic impact from the tremendous growth in Commercial River rafting over the past decade. Busloads from rafting companies in Vail and Aspen pack surrounding areas, but until local commercial regulations and use fees were implemented; impacts on the cities and their parks were not adequately accounted for Grauer, 1999).

The argument of this paper will be that, with some effort, environmentalists focused on habitat and wildlife conservation, agency impact estimators, local communities and the tourism industry can all effectively collaborate to enhance, rather than destroy Colorado's economic and recreational stability. Literature Review of Tourism Impacts on the Area: One of the primary issues is Colorado's reluctance to promote itself. Through the oil crisis, Colorado's tourist industry pulled it through. The last year 2/10 if 1 percent sales tax was imposed on tourist-related purchases, $11 million was collected and primarily used for advertising to keep Colorado in the forefront of people's minds when they do vacation planning. That tax is gone and alternative funding has had to be found. ("Tourism Promotion A Must", 1998). Growth in tourism particularly in the skiing and rafting industries has been increasing an astounding rate. It is estimated that by 2003, commercial rafting in Colorado will grow to 800,000 per total user day period, which is a projected 8.4 percent increase annually (Grauer, 1999). Meantime, the forest around Vail, Breckenridge, and Aspen record approximately 12 million visits per year, the fifth highest of any national forest. The forest is

responsible for 34,000 jobs and $720 million in revenue annually. However, a proposal to restrict ski area growth and off-road vehicle use in an effort to protect the busiest national forest in the Rockies, creates concern and pits ecosystem health against human use and employment ("Critics: Forest proposal would raise ski costs, hurt disabled", 2000). The shift from promoting human uses of the forest to preserving physical and biological resources on public lands is a new concept. Public involvement and input was requested in creating alternative proposals. Proposed planning rules required input of informal advisory groups to coordinate and provide outside knowledge on local conditions and topics of interest and concern. The White River National Forest agencies intent is clear, but the opportunities for local residents and communities to get involved were limited due to the large regional expanse (Webb, "Planning rule changes", 1999). Proposals and managed alternatives have been developed, however. The Forest Service agency has committed to maintain sustainable ecosystems by primarily providing social responsibility and environmental sensitivity, including these additional proposed alternatives: 1) maintain existing recreational development, 2) use timber harvesting and fire and

structural improvements to promote habitat types, 3) continue to provide recreational activities focused on utilization of resources such as vegetation management, livestock grazing and mineral development, 4) promote skibased resorts, outfitter and guide activities which bring people to the forest and which emphasizes retaining the wildness of the land, allowing recreation to continue as long as it does not impair the forest's natural process, animals or native plants (Kelley, 1999). All but one of these proposed alternatives results in estimated forestrelated employment of between 43,153 and 43,610. The converse to this, is that any of the proposals would still result in more than 2,000 fewer jobs than if skiing or other human uses were the primary concern ( Webb, "Preferred alternative", 1999). In 1999, the Colorado Tourism Award was bestowed on the Dinosaur Diamond Partnership for developing cooperative tourism marketing around a fossil resource theme. The example of this small town of "Fruits, CO", which was the developed, exemplifies success in forging cooperative partnerships among business, government and community groups. The development includes a museum, campground, and state park. The community leveraged limited funds by providing seed capital and then by creating an environment

supportive of additional investment by others. The collaborative effort was developed to promote economic development in a mostly rural and economically struggling region. These communities are now looking to tourism development as a way to diversify and stabilize their local economies ("The Dinosaur Diamond Partnership:", 1999). The Dinosaur Diamond Partnership is an example of how Vail and its surrounding communities in the White River National Forest region may collaborate, with limited capital, to sustain the ecosystem and preserve the habitat and wildlife without compromising the revenue and economic growth and stability of the resort and recreational facilities and communal areas. Organization of the Study: The study will be organized in five chapters: Introduction (Statement of Problem), Review of the Literature, Methodology, Findings, and Conclusions and Recommendations.

TENTATIVE BIBLIOGRAPHY "Colorado Tourism board Holds Initial Meeting." Marketing News. August 14, 2000, Vol. 34, I. 17, p. 1-8. "Critics: Forest proposal would raise ski costs, hurt disabled." The Glenwood Post: Search Glenwood.com. February 24, 2000. Grauer, Bernie. "Regional rafting business up 38 percent last year." Search Vail.com: Business. May 9, 1999. Kelley, Anne-Marie. "Forest prefers habitat recovery in draft plan." Search Vail.com: News. August 1, 1999. Randles, Jeff. "Tourism Promotion A Must." Colorado Business. March 1998, Vol. 25, I. 3, p. 54. "Rare alliance in the Rockies strives to save open spaces." New York Times. August 14, 1998, Vol. 147, I. 51249, p. A1. Rice, Heidi. "Courting the Front Range." Search Vail.com: Feature. March 7, 1999. "Start-ups in tourism urged." Entrepreneur. March 1995, Vol. 23, I. 3, p. 26. "The Dinosaur Diamond Partnership: A regional initiative million of years in the making." Public Management (US). February 1999, Vol. 81, I. 2, p. 15. Webb, Dennis. "Preferred alternative would slow job growth." Search Vail.com: News. August 5, 1999. Webb, Dennis. "Planning rule changes could impact local forest." Search Vail.com: News. December 2, 1999.

Brian M Touray MSc. Tourism Management Griffith University, Australia