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The answers to the question, ‘should Chaffee County be promoting tourism?’ may be as varied as there are residents of this county. Some hate it, others tolerate it to be able to live here, some enjoy showing off our beautiful valley with visitors. Still other businesses rely upon the county’s efforts to attract visitors to both survive and thrive.

FIBark 2020. Photo by Brooke Gilmore.

No matter what your view of it the fact remains: tourism is a bread and butter aspect of this county’s economy. According to the Colorado Tourism Office (CTO), travelers spent $128 million in Chaffee County last year. According to CTO data, this constitutes a 53 percent increase in tourism activity in the county since 2016, representing $8.6 million in additional wages and business income during that time.

Recreational tourism accounts for some 70 percent of our local economy.

Tourism’s economic impact on recreational categories is profound, and the size of these local industries is growing:

  •  Hunting and fishing                            $ 70 million
  • Commercial river/Ark Headwaters  $ 66 million
  •  Monarch Mountain                             $ 57 million
  •  Arkansas River rafting                        $100 million

Clearly tourism is vital to the local economy. But a recent survey reveals that many of you are concerned that our beloved county is being overused and “loved to death”.

The county’s tourism effort is directed by an appointed Chaffee County Visitor’s Bureau, with Scott Peterson contracted to execute the marketing effort. The images of this county are laid out in the county’s visitor’s website:

The county’s Lodging and Visitor’s Bureau Fund has a 2021 budget of $649,200 to promote Chaffee County, funded by a combination of revenue streams, but primarily by lodging tax. That promotional level is down from the 2020 budget, primarily due to the impacts of COVID-19 on lodging tax revenue.

Courtesy photo

Ark Valley Voice will pose a series of questions around tourism that over the coming weeks, will allow our readers to weigh in on what you think. It should be noted that opinions are just that — opinions. But  residents’ views are important and deserve to be heard.

We’ll be asking a series of questions about the kinds of tourism that Chaffee County is promoting; asking what you think is working, what is working too well, what areas you believe are being neglected, or what aspects of promotion you question.

We’ll begin with reader’s general views of the Chaffee County tourism effort: is the county promoting itself enough, too much, not enough? You can click on the survey question at the top right of this web page to take the survey.

If you have tourism topic areas that you’d like us to consider for upcoming survey questions, please send them to