Colorado mountain, resort communities are rebounding — and then some — from coronavirus-scarred 2020
Despite grim projections last spring, many of Colorado’s high-country resort communities saw waves of in-state visitors in the fall and early winter fill local coffers.
John Norton, Gunnison County’s tourism czar, was talking to his board last April. The ski resort had closed abruptly. Lodging and restaurants were closed. Visitors were being told to leave. The pandemic was triggering a panic in tourist-based economies across the country.
A board member asked how much the Gunnison River Valley tourism community could expect to lose. Norton guessed: down 25%, maybe even 50% for the year.
“A couple board members told me I was being overly optimistic,” said Norton, the director of the valley’s Tourism and Prosperity Partnership. “I just didn’t know. Nobody could know. The last pandemic was a century ago, right? But to end up where we did, that is something I never, ever would have predicted.”
In fact, lodging sales tax revenue from the Gunnison valley ended 2020 up 11.5% from the year before. In the town of Crested Butte, net taxable sales jumped 5.7% in 2020 to $119.9 million.
“We are all just shaking our heads over here,” Norton said.
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