Romer: Welcoming second-home owners to Eagle County
We’ve been waiting for a little good news — any good news — on the economic front for a while now. Earlier this week we got a sliver of hope. Consumer confidence ticked up slightly, 1.1%, in May, according to the Conference Board.
That sliver of good news comes after startling declines of 10.4% and 27.9% in March and April, respectively. Due to continued uncertainty, it is incumbent to moderate our economic expectations.
The increase in May was driven by future expectations. Consumers’ take on current conditions fell to its lowest level in seven years. This is likely driven by continued record job losses. Consumers are still significantly less confident than they were in March, before the COVID-19 shock fully kicked in. We have a long way to go to repair that damage.
Consumer confidence is vital to getting the economy back on track. Consumer spending makes up roughly 70% of the economy on a national level and significantly impacts Eagle County’s economy. When consumers are confident, they travel and spend. That spending drives growth across the economy and supports Eagle County’s businesses and municipalities.
Confidence will rise as the states reopen their economies and as consumers become less fearful of the virus. Recovery of confidence will take some time, but hopefully this month’s uptick in consumer confidence marks the beginning of that recovery process. If confidence continues to rise in coming months, the worst will likely be behind us.
In the meantime — recognizing that the national recovery and our local recovery are tied to consumer confidence and the willingness of people to have confidence in travel — how do we build back our local economy?
In other words, how do we salvage our economy when revenue generation is dependent on visitor volume which is no longer available to us due to necessary measures to slow the transmission of this illness, and fear of travel is at an all-time high?
Since early March, when the first positive case of COVID-19 was identified in Eagle County, our economy has been decimated. Tourism accounts for nearly half of all jobs in Eagle County, and traveler sentiment and consumer confidence data points lead us to the conclusion that no one knows when tourism dollars will return to prior volumes. We must bring money into our community by other means.
The question then becomes: “What can we do?”
Thirty-eight percent of local housing units are vacant vacation homes that can be occupied. By working together in a collaborative nature to invite our second-home owners to live in Eagle County, their presence will help rebuild our economy and protect our way of life. They are financially and emotionally invested in our communities and enjoy the same property rights as full-time residents. Welcoming these property owners to “Come Here, Live Here, Stay Here” will boost local spending and help us weather this storm.
The next question becomes: “Wow do we do it?”
The Welcome Home Campaign provides a way for local ambassadors (realtors, property managers, property owner associations, metro districts, ski instructors, nonprofits, businesses, etc.) to connect with second-home owners and locals, and help lead our community toward economic recovery.
This campaign — and decisive action — is required to support our residents and businesses to protect our collective future. Everyone benefits from financial stability; second homeowners enjoy the same personal property rights as year-round residents and can help stabilize our economy. This is our time to come together and send a message from our community to our second-home owners: Welcome Home.
Chris Romer is president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce. Learn more at www.vailvalleypartnership.com.