Last week I wrote about several reasons why we should be hopeful about a stronger economic recovery than many other mountain destinations. One, we are not driven by special events, and we know large special events are not likely to take place this summer. Two, we enjoy a big drive versus fly visitor, and we know that people are shying away from plane travel, at least for the foreseeable future. Three, most visitors are here for our beautiful out of doors, and we know that most people feel safe in the outdoors and that the chances of catching the virus outdoors are much smaller than catching the virus indoors.
Conversations last week with some big-city colleagues have given me one other thought about why we may recover faster than others, and another thought about some permanent changes that may take place across our country that will have implications here.
As to the recovery, one colleague suggested that business travel will be negatively affected for the long-term. His is a company of travelers.
“All of us have been accustomed to flying across the country at the drop of a hat. I used to travel to Dallas and see David probably four times per year. Now I see him, literally, every week via zoom or one of its many substitutes. It’s making us rethink our liberal travel policies. Do I really need to take 35-40 business trips each year?”
Many of our mountain-town brethren have a great deal of business that can be accounted for by business travel. Conventions, boondoggle meetings as a reward for great results, and continuing education come to mind. We enjoy very little of this business. We’re not going to lose this business. Others will.
Another colleague reported that his CEO and CFO had long been ill-disposed to remote working in their company, for whatever reason. Now the whole company is one of remote workers, and the company is doing fine, even well, through this tough time. On a call, his CEO asked rhetorically why he had believed so fervently that he and everyone needed to spend hours getting to and from the offices every day in the busy northeast? In the CEO’s case, driving to the train station in Fairfield County, Connecticut, catching the train to Grand Central, and walking the seven blocks to their offices. He was not missing the 150-minute daily commute, and didn’t find himself less productive because he was working from home.
The next thought must be if working from home works, do companies across America really need their offices? And if many decide they do not, then it follows that employees would ask themselves if they need to live anywhere near where their offices used to be? And if the answer is no then the influx in remote workers to our valley we’ve seen the past 5-10 years represents only the pioneers. Stay tuned for the settlers …
I’ll end here with a reminder of what potential visitors are wanting. They want to drive to their destination. And they want to feel safe at their destination. Last week I made a trip to an essential business, one selling bar chain oil which I needed. The customers in the store were masked. The guy behind the counter was not. If the guy was making a political statement, it would be “My First Amendment rights are more important than your health.” If he was making a scientific statement, it would be “Covid is not particularly contagious.” In either event, I’ll get my chain oil somewhere else next time I’m running low. Visitors to the valley have plenty of beautiful mountain places to choose from—just like I have several places to choose from when buying bar chain oil. It behooves us to make them feel safe—public health orders aside. Then again, maybe I’m a wimp. I wear a helmet when I ski the mountain, mountain bike, and jump into whitewater in my kayak.
We’re not out of the woods and a homeowner here writes about recognizing the dire need to reopen:
“However, a mass opening with no mandatory masks and no checking in (for tracing), leaves us in the same position as South Korea and Singapore. These models had no new cases, then a few individuals went to the bars. The result was instant spikes, and the remedy was another total shutdown of many facilities. Please reconsider and put in place some guidelines instead of opening with no limits and endangering the health of the locals, as well as that of the other visitors.”
We don’t want to go backwards.
I’ll end on a hopeful note. I just ran into a north valley lodger on a bike ride. I asked him about demand based on our May 27 openings. His lodging is now pretty much fully booked through August.
“People really want to get here,” he said.
He doesn’t want to go backwards, either!
-John Norton, Executive Director, Tourism and Prosperity Partnership