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Key takeaways from Vail’s Destination Stewardship Plan

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September 10, 2022, 11:22 am

The Town of Vail on Friday issued the following press release on its Destination Stewardship Plan:

Vail’s year-long process to create a Destination Stewardship Plan that will be used to balance community priorities and the environment while supporting a thriving visitor economy, is entering its final stages after completing an information-gathering phase involving more than 1,100 stakeholders that will be used as the plan’s foundation.

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An update on the Steward Vail planning process was presented to the Vail Town Council this week by the project’s lead consultant, Cathy Ritter of Better Destinations based in Denver. Using findings from the team’s comprehensive research, which has involved surveys, focus groups, interviews and other community outreach sessions, the action plan is currently being drafted. The consulting team also includes leading strategic planning firm MMGY NextFactor of Vancouver and the Travel Foundation, an international NGO focused on improving the impacts of tourism.

A Steward Vail Vision as well as proposed plan pillars and strategic initiatives will be shared with the community during final public engagement sessions Oct. 19 and 20. To register for the upcoming sessions or to learn more about Steward Vail, visit www.engagevail.com/stewardship

The Steward Vail plan will build upon insights documented in a situational analysis. Key findings include: 

  • Resident Housing Crisis –It will be critically important to address a housing crisis that threatens to strangle the health of its tourism economy. The cost and short supply of housing impacts every aspect of life in the Vail Valley.
  • Regional Collaboration – Residents throughout Vail and Eagle County share similar concerns regarding housing, parking pressures, crowding, damage to trails and loss of a sense of community. This commonality of interests points to the potential for regional collaboration to address concerns that are at the top of the list for everyone in Eagle County. 
  • Parking Pressures – Shared concerns point to a need to re-envision Vail’s parking strategy. A key question for Vail to address is whether it wishes to use parking access as a means of managing its capacity for visitors.
  • Community Connections – A persistent theme was a longing for a Vail where people feel more connected — both to the community and with each other. All recognize how challenging this is for a town built as a resort and whose permanent population of less than 5,000 is far outnumbered by its 2.5 million yearly visitors. 
  • Next Generation Development – Opportunity abounds for young entrepreneurs in Vail, but it is hard for a new business owner to get a foothold. Making things easier for fledging entrepreneurs could help build the town’s next generation of leaders, introduce more diversity into food and retail offerings, send more tourist dollars to local pockets, and give locals more places to enjoy.
  • Marketing Refinements – By promoting Vail as a charming, upscale destination that also is welcoming, inclusive and focused on sustainability, Vail could improve its competitive standing, carve out a unique position for travelers and satisfy locals.
  • Consumer Awareness – Although Vail is recognized among the world’s most sustainable destinations, consumers are not aware. Vail has a chance to gain awareness and recognition about its considerable accomplishments to build a stronger reputation among visitors who make traveling sustainability a priority. 
  • Guest Service Focus – Providing a high level of customer service is paramount to Vail’s future success.
  • Natural Environment Threats – Vail’s appeal is founded on its extraordinary natural resources, especially its premier ski mountain. Climate change, overuse of trails, threats to water quality and stress on wildlife habitat all threaten the Vail experience. 

In her update to Town Council, Ritter noted the draft plan will be organized with strategies and tactics based on five planning pillars discussed in a recent visioning session:

  • Do Better Together – Embrace local and regional collaboration and both public and private partnerships.
  • Enhance World-Class Experiences – Elevate the Vail experience for all while managing use of key assets.
  • Reinvigorate Vail’s Spirit– Restore and rebuild a sense of community.
  • Steward Vail as a Global Model – Position Vail locally and internationally as a leading environmental steward.
  • Embrace Values-Based Marketing – Realign Vail marketing to reflect shared community values.

The goal of Steward Vail is to create a 10-year vision and management plan that will advance Vail’s sustainability goals in step with local priorities while managing the growth of Vail’s tourism economy. Specifically, the town is seeking ways to attract visitors who will support and respect the destination, while encouraging more equitable access to all that Vail offers.

Following the public workshops in October, the draft plan will be presented to the Planning and Environmental Commission in November with consideration of the plan’s adoption by the Town Council in December. 

For additional details about Steward Vail, visit www.engagevail.com/stewardship or contact Mia Vlaar, economic development director, at 970-479-2452 or email mvlaar@vailgov.com

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