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Town of Vail names consulting team to develop Destination Stewardship Plan

February 3, 2022, 11:29 am

The Town of Vail recently issued the following press release on selecting a consulting team for developing a Destination Stewardship Plan:

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A consultant team representing three leading tourism organizations has been selected to lead the year-long planning process to develop a Destination Stewardship Plan for the community, putting Vail on a path to align its thriving tourism economy with community priorities and enhance its global reputation as a sustainable destination for travelers. A $169,500 contract authorizing the work was unanimously approved by the Vail Town Council at its Feb. 1 meeting. The selection followed a review of proposals submitted during a request for proposals process announced in November 2021. 

Adoption of a Destination Stewardship Plan for Vail will be among the first in the nation and fulfills a requirement of Vail’s ongoing certification as a Sustainable Tourism Destination first attained in 2017 under the Mountain IDEAL standard, a framework recognized by Global Sustainable Tourism Council. The study area incorporates the Gore Creek watershed, including the town boundaries and the Vail Mountain permit area.

 “The destination stewardship planning process will engage our community in creating a vision and plan to guide our tourism initiatives into the future,” said Vail Mayor Kim Langmaid. “Ultimately the stewardship plan will help us optimize guest experiences and protect our unique assets, while minimizing the negative impacts of tourism and unintended consequences that can arise.”

 Better Destinations of Denver and MMGY NextFactor of Vancouver will share overall project leadership of the Destination Stewardship Plan. The Travel Foundation, an international NGO focused on improving impacts of tourism, will support the town in further strengthening its globally recognized sustainable tourism initiatives.

 Better Destinations Founder and CEO Cathy Ritter, who headed the Colorado Tourism Office from 2015 to 2021, will lead the study which will incorporate expertise from the partner agencies. Together the team has delivered insights and strategies for more than 250 destinations across the globe, including a Destination Management Plan for Breckenridge adopted in 2019. Ritter co-led and co-wrote the Colorado Tourism Roadmap which is widely recognized as one of the first destination management plans in the U.S. MMGY NextFactor and Better Destinations currently are working to create one of the first Destination Stewardship Plans in North America for an eight-county region surrounding Glacier National Park.

“By being among the first to make destination stewardship the focus of a planning process, Vail is signaling a commitment to deciding what kind of destination it wants to be and involving local stakeholders every step of the way,” said Ritter. “Our work will center on engaging with the community to identify priorities and create a shared vision for a tourism economy that delivers real benefits for locals and guests, and offsets impacts of visitation in meaningful ways.”

Set to launch immediately, the 11-month planning process will create numerous opportunities for both full- and part-time residents, business stakeholders, nonprofits, governmental bodies, public land managers and others to participate. Consultations will include one-on-one interviews, focus groups and public visioning workshops.

The goal is to create a 10-year vision and management plan harnessing Vail’s tourism economy to deliver a high quality of life for residents along with quality guest experiences. 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. Another priority is to celebrate the town’s remarkable heritage and the role it has played in Colorado’s history of winter sport.

Community engagement opportunities and project updates will be hosted on www.EngageVail.com. Watch for announcements soon for project details. 

The town’s point person for the project is Mia Vlaar, director of economic development, with support from Kristen Bertuglia, director of environmental sustainability. Also playing key roles in the planning process are the town’s six key community partners: U.S. Forest Service, Vail Resorts, Eagle River Water and Sanitation District, Vail Recreation District, Holy Cross Energy, and Walking Mountains Science Center.

Currently, the Town of Vail and Vail Resorts share responsibility for managing and marketing the destination. VailResorts manages winter season marketing, while the Town’s Vail Local Marketing District generates about $4 million annually from a 1.4 percent lodging tax. The Town uses the proceeds to market natural attractions, local businesses, and special events outside of the winter season.

The planning timeline aims at securing the Town Council’s approval of the completed destination stewardship plan by December 31, 2022, allowing Vail to attain full compliance with the Mountain IDEAL standard. Vail was the first global mountain destination to achieve that standard in 2017 and was given five years to complete a destination plan. 

The following year, Green Destinations named Vail among the world’s Top 100 Sustainable Destinations. To date, only two other mountain destinations – Breckenridge and Jackson Hole – have attained certification under a Global Sustainable Tourism Council recognized standard such as Mountain IDEAL. 

The Town of Vail is considering a separate community planning initiative for next year to replace the Vision 2020 plan that has guided the destination since 2008. Findings from the destination stewardship plan are intended to support the future community planning process.

 For more information about the planning process, contact Mia Vlaar at mvlaar@vailgov.com or 970-479-2454.

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