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A community-positive focus for the mountain town of Vail, Colorado

Guiding Principle 3: Collaborate in destination management. Seek to develop all tourism through a collaborative management structure with equal participation by government, the private sector, and civil society organizations that represent diversity in communities.

Despite having less than 5,000 residents in a 10-mile stretch of town, the mountain resort town of Vail attracts 2.5 million visitors annually. This increased footfall has put pressure on natural resources, infrastructure, housing access and supply, as well as social relations between guests and local people. 

To address these issues, Vail developed its first-ever destination stewardship plan in 2023 through a 17-month community-driven process. The plan was created with input from more than 3,000 locals and hundreds of regional stakeholders through interviews, town hall meetings, surveys, and focus groups.

It marks the start of a new “community-positive” focus for Vail. While tourism is the economic backbone of the town, Vail recognizes that it must also meet the needs of the community for the destination to thrive. To achieve this, Vail’s destination stewardship plan has 5 major actions and 40 accompanying strategies, targets, and indicators mapped out across the short-, medium-, and long-term. Strategies include initiatives to encourage local entrepreneurship, broaden local access to Vail’s offerings, and analyze carrying capacity to better cope with demand.

Housing was found to be a major concern for Vail, so the town now aims to make Vail more livable by doubling the supply of deed-restricted homes by 2033. Collaboration is another big focus, with residents believing that greater cooperation among resorts and the town would help mitigate tourism pressures.

Vail now aims to become “the world’s premier sustainable mountain resort community” by managing the growth of its tourism economy, protecting its way of life and natural environment, and maintaining a world-class experience for visitors and residents alike. The 10-year plan seeks to strengthen the community, foster a more resilient visitor economy, and steward the natural environment.

Every month, the Future of Tourism Coalition highlights inspiring stories that bring our shared vision for tourism to life. Have a story to share? Submit yours today.

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