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Pagosa Springs
Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Pandemic sparks rise in ‘virtual travelers’

By Clayton Chaney
Staff Writer

Pagosa Springs’ growing popularity amongst travelers combined with the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted with the town seeing higher numbers of lodging tax collections over the past few months. 

Tourism Director Jennifer Green stated, “The fact that we’ve gotten Pagosa out there probably has put us on the radar a bit more.” 

The town’s social media sites are becoming more popular, particularly on Instagram, with almost 15,000 followers now. 

At the last meeting on Sept. 8, the Pagosa Springs Area Tourism Board was presented with a lodgers’ tax financial report. 

The town’s collections through the summer months “continues to reflect extremely strong numbers,” according to Green. 

As stated in the director’s report, “July reflects a massive 30.99 percent increase over 2019, or $27,489.”

July is also the “first time [this year] that one month’s collections exceeded $100,000 with collections totaling $116,202,” according to the report. However, total collections through the whole year so far are “down 2.98 percent through July.” 

As the world continues to adapt to the ever-changing conditions of the coronavirus, Green indicated adventurers and travelers alike are seizing this unique opportunity. 

“There is a different type of traveler. … There is definitely a heightened demand that I was not expecting,” Green explained. 

With schools across the nation switching to remote learning programs last spring and choosing to continue with similar formats for the fall, Pagosa Springs is becoming a top destination for folks, Green explained. While majority of our lives are becoming virtual, people seem to have more time and freedom to travel.

Green added, “We [Pagosa Springs] are a rural destination and people want to be away from others in the beautiful scenery.” 

When the pandemic first hit, no one knew how it would effect the town’s tourist industry, Green suggested. Surprisingly, the town has seen a higher number of visitors than usual around this time of year. 

According to board member Michael Whiting, who has been a resident of Pagosa Springs for over 15 years, “This is the busiest September I remember. I couldn’t even make a left-hand turn anywhere downtown without a light.”

Green suggested that, as Pagosa Springs continues to grow and become a top destination for travelers around the country and the world, the town will need to continue to plan for accommodating increasing numbers of guests. 

When asked by a board member if the 2021 budget would need to be reassessed, Green’s response was, “It is highly likely that we’ll want to adjust 2021.”

Other news

At the same meeting, the board discussed giving up its position this year as the fiscal agent of the Colorado Historic Hot Springs Loop. 

Pagosa Springs has served as the fiscal agent of the organization since its inception in 2015. 

With Steamboat Springs volunteering to take on the role as the fiscal agent for the organization, Pagosa Springs will be able to apply for its own Colorado Tourism Office (CTO) Marketing Match Grant, Green explained.

The CTO matches every dollar allocated to the program and will award grants up to $25,000.

The board also discussed a funding request for a skijoring event.

Last year was the first year for the Skis and Saddles Pagosa Country event as part of the annual WinterFest. The organization submitted a special event funding application requesting $10,000, but was asked by the board to resubmit its application. 

Board member Shane Lucero stated, “I don’t feel this is a complete application.”

Green indicated the board would like to be able to support the skijoring event, but it needs more details from Ski and Saddles in order to approve the funds. 

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