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Visit Durango strengthens community roots

Like wildflowers during the dry season in need of rain, Visit Durango was previously under-resourced and not able to compete effectively with other destinations hoping for a strong economic recovery from the pandemic.

But with the passing of ballot measure 1-A, and the increase in lodgers tax, Visit Durango will be able to grow and flourish.

Informed by resident and stakeholder feedback, a top priority for the new era of Visit Durango is an increased number of partnerships and a strengthening of existing connections with community organizations. Visit Durango, previously known as the Durango Area Tourism Office, has a long history of partnerships with community groups. Those connections were mostly focused on other economic development entities like the Durango Chamber of Commerce, the Business Improvement District, the Durango chapter of the Colorado Restaurant Association and more. Those bonds will continue to be important. However, as Visit Durango continues its transition from a destination marketing organization to a destination management and marketing organization, Visit Durango will focus on forming new partnerships with organizations whose missions are not just focused on economics.

The city of Durango has always been one of Visit Durango’s most important stakeholders. Durango’s City Council understands the value of the tourism economy and is motivated to help guide the transition to sustainable tourism. For this reason, starting in June, Mayor Kim Baxter will join the Visit Durango board of directors. Our 14-member board guides the strategy of Visit Durango and will be the architects of Visit Durango’s tourism future. Baxter’s experience and expertise will offer a crucial viewpoint to this group of Durango tourism leaders.

One of our most exciting new partnerships is with the San Juan Mountain Association. As of this month, a Forest Ambassador program has begun in the Durango Welcome Center and will continue through the summer months. The Forest Ambassadors assist visitors with hiking and camping information, and will be educating the public about sustainability and responsible trail usage. Similarly, Visit Durango is also partnering with Durango Trails (formerly Trails 2000) on its new campaign, Durango Trail Love, assisting with printing costs for maps and other marketing materials. These maps will be distributed at the Durango Welcome Center.

An important aspect of deepening our roots further in the community is giving back. Visit Durango continues to be a key member of the sustainable mountain town destination alliance, Pledge for the Wild. As part of that campaign, Visit Durango encourages visitors to give back by donating to Durango Trails and signing the Care for Durango pledge. Additionally, this summer, our staff members will be getting their hands dirty! Visit Durango’s team will join the Chamber of Commerce and Business Improvement District for the 18th annual iClean Durango and Durango Trails for the Colorado Trail Maintenance volunteer day.

Diversity, equity and inclusion are top priorities for Visit Durango, both internally as a local organization and employer and also in our marketing and advertising efforts. Visit Durango recently formed a working group with the Four Corners Alliance for Diversity and the Rainbow Youth Center. Together, we are working toward providing resources for LGBTQ visitors traveling to Durango, and will also offer training and outreach opportunities to local stakeholders. Visit Durango is expanding our website content and events, adding inclusive and LGBTQ-friendly business listings and creating a self-certification training program. As a product of these efforts, this May, Visit Durango launched our LGBTQ Travel Guide microsite.

There are potential partnerships that are not even on our radar yet. This is one reason why Visit Durango is committed to transparency and open communications with the public. We are currently recruiting members for several of our advisory committees. We have vacancies on our Marketing Committee, Sustainable/Responsible Tourism Task Force and our Sales & Services Task Force. We are particularly looking for members from diverse backgrounds who can offer a unique perspective. Committee members should have professional experience or expertise in the topic of the committee, and an interest in guiding the future of La Plata County’s tourism industry. If you are interested in applying for a committee, email us with a note of interest and your resume at director@durango.org.

As Visit Durango moves beyond economic goals to include a vision for sustainability, we are branching out further into the community. Local residents have become one of our most important stakeholder groups. As our roots in our community are strengthened, we envision a future where Visit Durango, along with our partner organizations, will help La Plata County truly flourish.

Rachel Brown is executive director of Visit Durango. She can be reached at (970) 828-1038 or rachel@durango.org.