Eagle County commissioner candidates talk about tourism | VailDaily.com

Eagle County commissioner candidates talk about tourism

EAGLE COUNTY – As election day nears, the candidates for Eagle County commissioner are honing their campaign messages. Incumbent Sara Fisher and challenger Claudia Alexander recently took some time to send e-mail responses to this question:

Tourism is Eagle County’s biggest business – what can, or should, the county do to encourage the growth of that industry?

Alexander: Eagle County tourism is our anchor business, drawing people worldwide to our community. Our winter resorts are unsurpassable but I believe we have a great opportunity to expand our tourism and seize the opportunity to showcase the awesome wonders that await visitors to our county.

When planning a vacation to enjoy your favorite activity the Eagle County website opens a list of agenda items when you click “tourism,” which has nothing to do with tourists. Click “visitors” and a page opens with links to the Vail Valley Partnership, Vail Chamber and Business Association and Eagle Valley Chamber of Commerce.

People don’t consider themselves tourists or visitors – they consider themselves adventurers, snowmobilers, kayaker, rafters, fly fishers and hikers, just to name a few. We don’t provide any mention or link to those type businesses or our tour guides. One must Google their sport in Eagle County to find providers and make arrangements.

Not a good first impression to someone who just wants a fun vacation!

We must be proactive and invite people to Eagle County for their vacation by showcasing the diversity of natural beauty, adventure and activity that is uniquely Eagle County.

“Eagle County Colorado, where our majestic Rocky Mountains, blue ribbon rivers and winter ski runs host your dream vacation!” Doesn’t that sound a bit more welcoming than “visitors click here?”

As your commissioner I will spearhead creation of a “Come to Eagle County” video to expand our sports draw. Our video vacation tour can highlight Teva games, seasonal kayaking and rafting of our rivers, a bow hunter tracking elk or deer, fly fishing the Frying Pan, Eagle River or Gore Creek, dog sledding, etc. The video tours will be available on the Eagle County, chambers of commerce and business provider websites, offering links to lodging and the airlines for easy booking. It is up to each business owner to make sure our visitors are treated well for repeat and referral business. We want them to return for another or different adventure year after year.

We have the knowledge, talent and technology right here in Eagle County to put this production together. We may qualify for a state tourism grant to fund the project. It is you, our citizens and business owners most knowledgeable of those secret fishing holes, expansive vistas and peak adventure experiences that we need to participate in this community project.

Our county economy needs a jump start. I believe by attracting people year ’round who want to have fun, we will also attract people who will decide to stay, open a new business or expand an existing company which will create jobs. We must not put all our eggs in one basket, but in this economy we are past time to make sure the Eagle County basket looks better than every other basket on the vacation market.

I would love for you to share other ideas to promote Eagle County vacations. Email me: Claudia@electclaudia.com, and don’t forget to vote for me Nov. 2 to put this plan in motion!

Fisher: For nearly 50 years tourism has been the bedrock of Eagle County’s economy. Of course skiing is at the top of the list, but right behind that is hunting, fishing and golf. Add in the categories of mountain biking, hiking, camping, water sports, snowmobiling, scenery and bird watching and you have a picture of one of the most diverse and readily accessible playgrounds in America.

The marketing that Vail Resorts practices to attract visitors to Eagle County is one of the most cutting-edge and sophisticated promotional programs in the world. That’s coupled with strong complementary work funded by the Vail Local Marketing District and our resort and lodging properties. And then there’s the more locally targeted efforts driven by the Vail Valley Foundation, Vail Valley Partnership, Eagle Valley Chamber of Commerce, One Eagle and the Gypsum Chamber of Commerce. Together and apart all these organizations tirelessly promote Eagle County.

How does the county fit into all of this? We provide some of the most important infrastructure to make it all work. Let’s start with the Eagle County Regional Airport. Next to Interstate 70, the county’s airport is the second most important gateway for visitors. With a $23 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration we lengthened the runway last year. This allows airlines to fly more passengers in and out per flight and have more choice of the aircraft they can use. Now non-stop flights can originate and return to destinations from about anywhere in the US.

This “reach” will also allow flights to originate from Canada and Mexico, but for that to happen, we’ve got to look at an investment in international facilities that includes unique customs, staffing and remodeling of the old terminal building. This is something we are actively working on with the Vail Valley Jet Center.

I-70 and our state highways are maintained by the Colorado Department of Transportation, but there are hundreds of miles of county roads that we are committed to keeping in good repair and providing winter plowing service. All of this is critical to keeping our tourism infrastructure healthy.

Along those same lines is our operation of ECO Transit, which is the most efficient mover of workers and visitors across the county. For the past six months and throughout 2011 we are actively involved in a top to bottom review and future service plan for ECO Transit to make sure our system not only functions efficiently, but can develop new service options.

At this month’s meeting of all the town managers and mayors and county commissioners we brought an exciting concept being developed by the Vail Valley Partnership forward to attract, create and coordinate more team sports tournaments utilizing facilities from Gypsum to Vail. This is an important step for better east-west valley cooperation.

The private sector understands and executes tourist promotion far better than government can. Eagle County’s job is to keep our transportation infrastructure in peak condition and continue to support private and community wide initiatives that will generate both first-time and repeat visitors.

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