Romer: Reflections and a look ahead
I want to share some thoughts and reflections on the past year and look ahead at the new year in front of us as we put a bow on 2021 (as if it was a gift?).
I offer no predictions on what 2022 will bring us (if the past 22 months have taught me anything, it is predictions are for the foolish). At the time they are made, most predictions seem not only rational but obvious. Chances are we’ll get thrown a curveball and any predictions will go up in smoke.
But we can learn from the past and look ahead at what it means for the future. Last year at this time, we were entering a ski season with new mountain operating procedures (reservations for skiing, anyone?), unprecedented levels of business disruption and more than a little bit of uncertainty. Lodging reservations and visitation — our economic lifeblood — were down well over 20%, and we didn’t know if or when the other shoe would drop.
Our high schools were in hybrid learning models last year at this time, and elementary and middle schools adapted to smaller pod settings. Wednesdays were teacher workdays with students attending virtually. Parents had to adapt and adjust and did so admirably.
It wasn’t just the ski mountains and school system experiencing new business models. Our entire business community had to adjust; restaurants needed to continue to adapt to occupancy restrictions and increased carry-out orders, retailers had to modify to social distancing requirements, and professional offices had to adjust to the new virtual-meeting reality.
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Credit and kudos to the mountain operations team at Vail and Beaver Creek for opening and remaining open for the entire 2020-21 ski season; to the Eagle County School District for remaining open for the entire 2020-21 school year; and to the business community for adapting and being flexible and persevering.
Then came March. Our tourism numbers rebounded to near-normal levels, only to set records for most of the summer and into this winter. Our summer season and the start to the 2021-22 winter season are Exhibit A as to why predictions are generally worthless. No one could have realistically predicted on December 31, 2020, that we would struggle through the first quarter of 2021 and then rebound with record-level business volume through the end of the year.
Yet, here we are in the last week of December with business booming, mountain operations and schools operating, and businesses with plenty of customers (and a shortage of employees). We are back to a mask mandate due to record-level case incidents and positivity rates as the omicron variant runs rampant through the country.
I promised not to make any predictions and will hold to my word. We can — and should — learn from the past and apply it to the future. If we have learned anything from the rollercoaster that was 2021, it might be that we must remain diligent about our physical and mental health while remaining intentional about being patient and kind with ourselves and others.
I hope you’ll choose to add one more resolution as we head into 2022 (and let’s hope it is not 2020, too). In addition to the personal growth and change you’re committing to, make this year the one when you embrace the fact the world is uncertain, we’re going to have curveballs thrown our way, and the best way to handle it is to stay focused on your health and being kind to others.
Chris Romer is president & CEO of Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce. Learn more at VailValleyPartnership.com.