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Working under the radar

There has been a lot of talk and some controversy of late concerning tourist events planned and proposed for Pagosa Country this year.

To make things clear: There has never been resistance in these quarters to any event that will bring people to Pagosa Country — five people or 500 people, the more the merrier. The more tourists attracted to Pagosa, the more our community benefits. We welcome them and we welcome the events — all the events — that draw them.

The only question expressed recently here concerned who and what agencies create and promote these events, and how they are funded. We stick by our position that there are organizations in the community created specifically for the purpose or promoting tourism and visitor activity. In some cases there are hundreds of thousands of dollars available for the purpose — tax dollars earmarked for the job. Use them, and use them well.

And now is a time for those dollars to be best put to use. We are on the cusp of the peak spring break weeks and, shortly ahead, looms the summer season. Like it or not, much of this community’s prosperity hinges on successful tourist seasons. And we need to recognize local enterprises that, year in and year out, stimulate much of the valuable tourist economy.

There is one entity in town that provides the foundation for our tourism-related economy —an entity that rarely receives credit for its input.

We speak of Wyndham and its resort operation in Pagosa Lakes, west of Pagosa Springs.

For many years, the area was the seat of ongoing conflict. For years, Fairfield, the Pagosa Lakes Property Owners Association and Archuleta County engaged in a series of pitched battles — litigious and otherwise. Often, in the heat of those battles, the value of the tourism-based aspects of Fairfield’s operation was lost in the dust and smoke. Too many people forgot that the company supplied much-needed input to the economy.

Now, however, Wyndham operates quietly, below the radar, absent the notoriety and much of the property and operations once held and conducted by Fairfield Pagosa, which owned golf courses, developed subdivisions and engaged in general real estate operations.

Wyndham now goes about its business most often out of the public eye, dealing with its timeshare and rental properties, and its customers. And Wyndham’s activity is a major part of the community’s business when it comes to tourism.

Simply put: the operation brings more visitors to Pagosa Country year-round than do all the other tourism-related enterprises in the area. Many Pagosans are unaware of the scope of the operation and its value to the community.

Wyndham Resort has 475 units that are used by timeshare owners or are rented. An average of three to four people occupy each unit.

As an example, the resort is fully booked for the next three weeks of spring break, with at least 1,200 “families” scheduled to spend time in Pagosa Country before the end of March. Figure four people per family. That’s 4,800 visitors in three weeks.

During the year, the operation brings an average 16,000 families to Pagosa and the resort. That’s a minimum of 64,000 visitors coming here, enjoying the amenities and spending their money in the local economy.

Studies have shown the average group visiting the resort spends approximately $1,000 in Pagosa. Do the math.

The talk and, most certainly, the controversy concerning tourism activities will continue in Pagosa Country. Some of it will be justified, some of it will be prompted by innuendo and backhanded play. No one, however, should doubt the importance of tourism to the area and as a result, more than a few hats should be tipped in Wyndham’s direction.

Karl Isberg

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