Vail Destination Stewardship Plan

During the rest of 2022, the Town of Vail will be creating a Destination Stewardship Plan, with the goals of:

  • Managing the growth of our tourism economy,
  • Protecting our way of life and the natural environment that we all love, and
  • Maintaining a world-class experience for our visitors and residents.

Why Is This a Priority?

There’s no doubt that we’ve reached a critical juncture for our town. Amid a global pandemic, when many destinations across the globe were seeing significant drops in visitation levels, Vail continues to see record-breaking numbers of visitors. This surge in visitation is putting pressure on natural resources and infrastructure, amplifying issues related to workforce and housing, and placing our residents and visitors at odds with one another.

What Is Destination Stewardship?

“Destination stewardship” is a strategic approach to tourism management that focuses on environmental, social and economic sustainability. We know that tourism is an important economic engine for our community. But we also know that tourism in a place as unique as Vail must be done in a way that preserves all that makes our community such a special place to live, work and visit.

How Will It Be Achieved?

The Destination Stewardship Plan will be developed through a community-driven process. Hundreds of regional stakeholders will be actively included in the process through a variety of engagements including interviews, town hall meetings, surveys, and focus groups.

How Can I Be Involved? Join a Visioning Session

We can’t do any of this without you, so please make your voice be heard. The Town of Vail will be hosting visioning sessions with members of the community from April to October, to better understand from you:

  • What challenges is tourism creating in our community?
  • What opportunities do you see to enhance the resident and visitor experience?
  • How can Vail create more positive benefits from tourism?



The Destination Stewardship Plan will be created in collaboration with:



During the rest of 2022, the Town of Vail will be creating a Destination Stewardship Plan, with the goals of:

  • Managing the growth of our tourism economy,
  • Protecting our way of life and the natural environment that we all love, and
  • Maintaining a world-class experience for our visitors and residents.

Why Is This a Priority?

There’s no doubt that we’ve reached a critical juncture for our town. Amid a global pandemic, when many destinations across the globe were seeing significant drops in visitation levels, Vail continues to see record-breaking numbers of visitors. This surge in visitation is putting pressure on natural resources and infrastructure, amplifying issues related to workforce and housing, and placing our residents and visitors at odds with one another.

What Is Destination Stewardship?

“Destination stewardship” is a strategic approach to tourism management that focuses on environmental, social and economic sustainability. We know that tourism is an important economic engine for our community. But we also know that tourism in a place as unique as Vail must be done in a way that preserves all that makes our community such a special place to live, work and visit.

How Will It Be Achieved?

The Destination Stewardship Plan will be developed through a community-driven process. Hundreds of regional stakeholders will be actively included in the process through a variety of engagements including interviews, town hall meetings, surveys, and focus groups.

How Can I Be Involved? Join a Visioning Session

We can’t do any of this without you, so please make your voice be heard. The Town of Vail will be hosting visioning sessions with members of the community from April to October, to better understand from you:

  • What challenges is tourism creating in our community?
  • What opportunities do you see to enhance the resident and visitor experience?
  • How can Vail create more positive benefits from tourism?



The Destination Stewardship Plan will be created in collaboration with:



Discussions: All (2) Open (2)
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    Key Takeaways in April Shared and Validated in June Public Feedback Sessions

    Workforce & Housing

    1. There is a wide range of opinions about the value of local workers living in Town versus down valley.
    2. The cost of housing has crossed a tipping point where local businesses can’t operate at full capacity.
    3. There is a long waiting list for childcare providers, and many parents are using unregulated help.
    4. Local public transit is excellent but there’s significant need for longer hours and extended routes.
    5. More can be done to support non-English speaking workers.

    The Vail Economy

    • More comprehensive data management capabilities will better inform and align decision making in the public, private and civic sectors.
    • Local entrepreneurs and remote workers could potentially help diversify the economy with support from the Town of Vail, in sectors such as technology and health.
    • The seasonal nature of Vail’s economy hampers investment, although many locals seem to appreciate slower times. Regional collaboration within Eagle County offers opportunities.
    • Events with global thought leadership will enhance the Vail brand.
    • There is a lack of professional development opportunities locally.

    Environment & Sustainability

    • There is widespread sentiment that visitor volumes often exceed the capacity of Vail, and there isn’t the data to identify overall social and environmental impacts.
    • Specifically, local trails, wildlife and water quality are under threat.
    • Greater education about sustainability for both locals and residents could significantly improve the local environment and social fabric.
    • It is critical to develop workable solutions for parking and accessibility.
    • Residents believe destination marketing should share local values relating to the region’s environment and way of life.

    Quality of Life & Experience

    • Prioritize placemaking. Many residents are craving a stronger sense of community where people interact with their neighbors more easily.
    • There is considerable demand for a multi-purpose community center.
    • There is widespread concern about the decreasing percentage of young people living in Vail.
    • Residents are aware that tourism represents the bulk of the economy, but there should be a greater focus on attracting quality over quantity. 
    • There is a common feeling that many people must work so hard to live in Town today that they can’t enjoy the reasons why they moved to Vail. 
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    Vail Public Sessions April 27-28, 2022 Top Takeaways by Subject

    Quality of Life & Experience

    1. Many attendees shared a deeply felt desire for more opportunities to interact with neighbors and other members of the community, especially at community events like the Vail Social, so that Vail feels more like a community of residents than a visitor destination.
    2. Many said a multipurpose community/recreation center could go a long way toward creating a space where Vail residents could come together as friends and neighbors.
    3. There was a firm belief that both part-time and full-time residents share this desire for neighborliness, and that there is not necessarily a divide between these two categories of residents. The exception was described as ultra-wealthy, part-time residents, who tend to stay to themselves. "Many part time residents feel like they are a community member of Vail. When they are here, they try to get involved by volunteering or attending events."
    4. There is a concern that Vail has been losing a younger generation of residents (20-somethings) to down valley locations, especially Eagle, which many said has been successful in fostering a strong sense of community. Suggestion: Social activities for young people that don’t include going to the bar (like “Skinning Night”).
    5. A better countywide transportation system could pave the way for closer human connections between Vail and other Eagle County locations. "We probably never will be able to house everyone in Vail that works in Vail. We need to figure out where people should live and make it easy to get to Vail."
    6. There is deep awareness that Vail would not exist without tourism, but residents would prefer quality of visitors over quantity of visitors. The experience for both residents and visitors has been impacted by too many people and overuse. Suggestions: Raise the price of the Epic Pass (except for Eagle County residents). Stop marketing to the Front Range. Raise parking prices. Install pay parking along the Frontage Road.
    7. Some residents believe that Vail has transitioned from a tourism economy to a second-homeowner economy.
    8. Many concerns were expressed about quality of life for workers. Concerns were expressed that many have to work so hard they don't get to enjoy the reason they came to Vail. Employers should be mindful of inviting workers into experiencing the outdoors and community events. Consider reinstating more "ski days" for workers. Suggestions:: Deals for locals (20% off local card). Create a local co-op/library for gear that locals can borrow for free.
    9. Educate people how to live better in connection with Vail’s beautiful surroundings. One idea: Theme Vail's visitor management messaging around being "The Ultimate Steward," which speaks to the extraordinary level of commitment Vail shows for the environment in general.
    10. The change in Vail Resorts’ ownership model and the Epic Pass have deeply impacted the Vail community's spirit and identity. "The Epic pass has made Vail less unique -- just another stop on the tour." Vail should provide VR with feedback on what the community needs. VR should consider creating a “locals” pass specific to Vail (& BC). Some shared a belief that VR should build its own housing and parking and not rely on the community’s resources.


    Workforce & Housing 

    1. The lack of affordable housing has reached a crisis point.
    2. Enhanced data collection and management for the Town of Vail will better inform strategic decision making and build consensus among the community related to workforce/housing needs and future scenario modeling. Also, residents feel there should be better, or more prominent, platforms for educating the community about all sides of the issues relating to both workforce and housing.
    3. Vail Resorts should be doing more to provide affordable housing for their own employees.
    4. There are opposing opinions about the value of ensuring a high percentage of workforce live in the Town versus down valley, with both sides very assured in their opinions.
    5. There’s general agreement that Vail has a world-class public transit system, but the hope is that the new transit plan in development will improve service beyond Vail for local workforce that commute.
    6. The Town of Vail and industry stakeholders should work to develop consensus about how to ensure that local workers are paid a living wage.
    7. Childcare is a huge cost burden for many families, and the 200+ wait list for getting into a facility surprised some of the people in the focus group.
    8. There’s general agreement that more should be done to support non-English native speaking workforce, and increase understanding of their unique needs.
    9. There are opportunities to provide additional non-monetary benefits for local workforce, including education, event discounts, special access to facilities, and others to address deteriorating morale.
    10. There is a lot of conversation among industry and community stakeholders about the local workforce, but there’s not enough conversation directly with the local workforce to truly understand their motivations and issues to the necessary degree.


    Vail Economy 

    1. The seasonal nature of Vail’s visitor economy puts strains on local infrastructure and creates challenges for the broader economy and community. The Town of Vail and industry stakeholders must look for opportunities to build a more balanced, year-round visitor economy.
    2. Local entrepreneurs and makers are looking for opportunities to network and share ideas, as well as potential support from the Town of Vail, i.e., commercial space, incentives, etc.
    3. Investment in regional transportation is needed to ensure the growing population of workers “down valley” is connected to the Vail economy.
    4. Investment in hospitality and tourism workforce training and education is needed to ensure Vail can attract and retain the level of workforce required to offer a world-class experience.
    5. The rise in remote work offers the opportunity for Vail to attract a workforce outside of the hospitality and tourism sector, however these remote workers often contribute to rising housing prices and require regional investment in technology.
    6. World-class facilities such as the Steadman Clinic, Vail-Summit Orthopaedics, Vail Valley Medical Center (VVMC) and the Shaw Regional Cancer Center offer the opportunity for Vail to become a mecca for medical tourism.
    7. Vail’s strength as a destination for outdoor recreation can be utilized to attract and develop businesses within or connected to the outdoor recreation industry, i.e., SYNC, Liberty Skis, etc.
    8. Vail has an opportunity to create or attract events and/or festivals which attract global thought leaders to the region and shine a light on Vail’s economic and community strengths, i.e., IMPACT Sustainability Travel & Tourism Conference, Asheville Ideas Fest, etc. Even certification in hospitality and tourism training.
    9. Regional collaboration within Eagle County and beyond is required to build and maintain a more resilient and diversified Vail economy.
    10. Creating a stronger sense of community and vibrancy within Vail will be essential to attracting and sustaining visitors, local businesses, and workforce.


    Environment & Sustainability 

    1. Education and awareness: This is a thread woven throughout; awareness of existing initiatives among locals and visitors as well as education around being a responsible recreationist and visitor is needed for better uptake of existing solutions and to reduce impacts.
    2. Carrying capacity superseded leading to several impacts:  This is another thread woven throughout; there is strong emphasis on the need to work with Vail Resorts to have them understand community impacts when growth is not managed or numbers are not capped. Other solutions such as a reservation system and capping numbers via parking limitations were.
    3. Waste generation, management & awareness: Challenges are around the increase in waste both due to residents and lack of awareness and proper use of facilities. Solutions centered around ensuring both locals and visitors are aware of and better use available facilities and potentially restricting single use items such as plastic bottles.
    4. Trail degradation due to overuse: Challenges are around volume of people and irresponsible behavior. Solutions included education for new residents and visitors and potentially a reservation system for busier trails coupled with promotion of lesser known trails.
    5. Fragmentation of habitat due to development: This is a general challenge and while there isn’t one clear solution, what was raised was building up and not out, and initiatives like 25 foot setback from creek being a good direction.
    6. Wildfire affecting quality of life and ecosystems: This is another general challenge being faced, particularly around air quality and smoke posing risks to destination’s ability to offer outdoor recreation. While general climate action planning is part of the solution, some specific action recommended is around education to prevent human-caused fires.
    7. Transportation & parking to access Vail:  The challenges in this area center around volume of cars leading to congestion and climate impacts due both to cars accessing Vail for tourism as well as people living down valley. Solutions center around a low-impact valley wide transport system (via the new regional transport initiative) and people see this as a catalyst to greater collaboration on many issues. Additionally increasing bike safety for bike commuting as an option, increasing EV infrastructure.
    8. Water scarcity and wasteful consumption: Main challenges here are around lack of water and diminishing water resources over time due to climate change as well as wasteful consumption by both residential and commercial entities.  Solutions center around regulations and education as well as conversion to natural alpine species landscaping (and/or xeriscaping).
    9. Climate change and how to decarbonize: While the main challenge on climate is around decreasing snowpack and increasing fires posing risk to the destination, there is also the challenge of reducing Vail’s own impacts from buildings and transportation. Several solutions around adaptation and improved low-impact transportation, implementing REMP tax, strengthening local food, and moving toward a car-free destination were posed.
    10. Marketing for growth and a shift to values-based marketing: Clearly marketing for continued growth is not needed particularly in certain peak times and a need for marketing that focuses on the values Vail wishes to uphold will be key. Specific tactics included messaging about how to visit Vail responsibly and highlighting low impact and high benefit activities.

    (Full summary with challenges & solutions Environment & Sustainability Public Workshops Apr 27-28)




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Page last updated: 05 Dec 2022, 12:36 PM