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ARCHIVED  March 1, 1996

Estes Park weighs role of tourism

ESTES PARK – Tourists don’t have any problem finding this town, but Estes Park is having trouble finding itself.
A rising chorus of residents, pointing to a $450,000 annual budget for tourism promotion, has called for an examination of how big a part tourism plays in the Estes Park economy. The goal is to determine whether some of those funds could be shifted to other purposes.
Different sides estimate that tourism constitutes anywhere from 40 percent of the economy to 75 percent.
“That [75 percent estimate] directs a lot of policy,´ said Peter Marsh, advertising manager for the Town of Estes Park’s Community Development Department. “If only 40 percent, that needs to direct policy.”
No matter which figure is correct, there’s no doubt tourism in Estes Park is huge. Regarded by many as a tourism mecca, Estes Park reaps the benefits of gorgeous scenery and its status as the entry point for Rocky Mountain National Park.
Tourist visits have broken records in recent years, with telephone inquiries to the Estes Park Convention & Visitors Bureau reaching a record 76,144 in 1994, up 25.5 percent from 1993. Last year, inquiries edged downward from the record year, to 74,675.
Visits to the Estes Park Visitors Center, operated by the Estes Park Area Chamber of Commerce, totaled 365,710 last year, down 18.7 percent from 1994, said Connie Boschen, general manager of the chamber.
Despite such statistics, civic leaders are only speculating as to how large a role tourism plays and how large a role is played by other sectors, such as the retiree market, the service sector, government and light manufacturing.
“How are we as a community to develop our future if we don’t know what the answers are?” Marsh asked, adding, “We have an obligation to look at reality, not hopes. We are not interested in proving that we should have a tourism-development program.”
Estes Park’s annual tourism budget includes $393,000 to advertise in national publications such as Gourmet and Bon Appetit. It’s big money, which some argue could better be spent on other projects.
“Many of the folks who believe that tourism isn’t that important will look you in the eye and say they buy everything they need in Estes Park, but you and I will see them in the valley at Sam’s,” Marsh said.
Directing a study of the Estes Park economy will by the Forward Estes Park Foundation, a nonprofit agency focused on the economic well-being of the Estes Valley.
Eric Blackhurst, co-owner of the Estes Park real estate agency Blackhurst & Rosener Realty & Investments and a leader of the Forward Estes Park Foundation, said his group is launching a formal study of the area’s economy.
Blackhurst said the group will meet with consultants in early April and determine a budget for the project after that. The project will go well into summer, he said.contract with outside agency, still in th eprocess of being planned. Met several times to look at the issues we’d like investigated, not just role of tourism, components that drive our economy, what part each plays in that role.
What we’re trying to do is to look at the different components — three, four five years back. Have several sectors to community, large retiree population, strong govt population, town, schools larimer co, large service sector. Id what components drive it and what part each of the components play, granted tourism is a large part. Personnaly believe it’s the largest engine in community, but have to look at overall economic base.
Town spending in excess of $450,000 of the town budget on advertising, some concern that the town shouldn’t be engaged in the advertising business. Part of what want to look at can we justify in relationship to other sectors of economy. Also need some tools for future planning.
(generally role of TFEPF has played is to gather information on which to make sound dec0 (study: foundation has some funds that we can use, in past gone to various organizations, both public and private, need to have budget first to see if we have the resources to do it)some sentiment on the town board, some amongst the retirement community, some sentiment htat we’re large enoguh, don’t need to grow anymore, same growth issues we’re seeing up and down the front range. Our organization has the desire to come in and rather than say , go find out what is our driving force. What’s the contribution of the year round population to the economic wellness of the town. What contrib local govt, school district, jobs.

ESTES PARK – Tourists don’t have any problem finding this town, but Estes Park is having trouble finding itself.
A rising chorus of residents, pointing to a $450,000 annual budget for tourism promotion, has called for an examination of how big a part tourism plays in the Estes Park economy. The goal is to determine whether some of those funds could be shifted to other purposes.
Different sides estimate that tourism constitutes anywhere from 40 percent of the economy to 75 percent.
“That [75 percent estimate] directs a lot of policy,´ said Peter Marsh, advertising manager for the Town…

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