How soon is too soon? Town council addresses tourism recovery plan, possible reopening date

By Chris Mannara
Staff Writer

Town Tourism Director Jennifer Green outlined for the Pagosa Springs Town Council on May 13 what the tourism recovery plan will look like when the time comes to invite visitors back to Pagosa Springs.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all active marketing of inviting visitors to Pagosa Springs has been halted since March 13, Green described.

The marketing that has been done has been passive, according to Green, with calming imagery and inspiring messages being advertised.

“We feel that we will be able to bounce back,” Green said. “We need to do it at a time where the community is ready for it.”

Air and international travel will be impacted longer due to COVID-19, but because Pagosa Springs is classified as a “drive market,” those factors are to the town’s benefit.

“Summer visitation in general is not dependent on events, and given that the likelihood of large events will not be happening at least for the next few months, that is to our advantage,” she said.

Cities and theme parks will be slower to recover as opposed to a small rural community like Pagosa Springs, Green described.

Promoting access to the surrounding 2.5 million acres of national forest and wilderness advocates for social distancing, as well, she added later.

Current efforts not only include passive advertising, but also working with businesses on a new business engagement support program, Green explained.

This program is a combination of training webinars for businesses, free advertising options and consultations, she described later.

However, Green explained that a tentative date of June 1 has been suggested to start actively promoting Pagosa Springs again.

This would coincide with a potential “soft opening” with the Pagosa Springs Visitors Center, she added.

 “Maybe it’s too soon at this point for you to make that decision, but the tourism board would like town council and the county commissioners to agree upon a date that we actively invite visitors,” Green said. “We don’t want to prematurely do that if the community is not ready for it.”

Council member Shari Pierce noted that she would rather wait until after Gov. Jared Polis issues the next public health guidelines and until the town sees where a possible variance request to the current public health orders goes.

“I think it is a little bit too soon, especially if the governor is going to hold fast in his limit of nonessential travel and stuff like that,” council member Madeline Bergon said. 

The target date of June 1 was described by council member Matt DeGuise as being “premature.”

“Once we are open, I think we are going to get enough people here without having to actively recruit them for several weeks,” DeGuise said.

However, council member Rory Burnett explained he believes the target date of June 1 is “great.”

“Our job is to serve the people,” Burnett said. “A vast majority of the people I’ve talked to in the community are ready to be open.”

Burnett added that he believes the town should be behind opening “sooner than later” because that’s what people who council represent are communicating.

“We’re not a health board. We serve the people of the community of Pagosa Springs and we’re a tourist town and I think that we should be OK with June 1,” he said. “Obviously things can change, but our numbers are such that we shouldn’t be in fear in this season.”

Mayor Don Volger explained that he would like to see how things play out over the next week, keeping June 1 as a possibility.

 

This story was posted on May 21, 2020.