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What does responsible tourism mean to you?

It goes by many names: sustainable tourism, destination stewardship, eco-tourism, etc., but what once focused mostly protecting the environment has now expanded to include people, culture, business and economic development.

The destination management and marketing industry is now rightly focused on responsible tourism.

Have you ever read this column and thought of a great marketing idea for Durango? Is there something visitors do that gets under your skin? Well, now is the time to have your voice heard!

For the first time, Visit Durango is conducting a countywide resident sentiment survey. We want to know your thoughts about how tourism impacts our local community. What are your thoughts about lodger’s tax? Do you feel more comfortable with visitors during COVID-19 because of the city’s mask requirements? Now is your chance to speak your mind.

Please visit https://mysay.is/LPCResident to share your perspective. The survey should only take about 10 minutes. And because we could all use a little extra cash right now, everyone who completes the survey will be entered to win a $150 VISA gift card. We are accepting surveys until July 10.

Visit Durango hopes to get a large sample size so moving forward our organization can make strategic and informed decisions about programs and campaigns. Your feedback will also be shared with city and county officials at the local, state and regional level. And thanks to the social media revolution, it’s never been easier to make your voice heard.

The Colorado Tourism Office embarked on a similar mission to understand and communicate how to care not just for Colorado, but also Coloradans. They conducted surveys and held focus groups. Their findings were not what you might expect. Some specific issues rose to the top. A main issue that was identified was improper disposal of human waste on trails and in the backcountry. To educate hikers, they created a fun, light-hearted video explaining proper poop etiquette. They also discovered other annoyances like hikers playing loud music on trails or putting trash in campfires. And of course, now there is a specific focus on health and safety because of COVID-19. Another video in their series asks people to social distance by keeping a ski’s length apart and to “keep a mask in your pocket in case you need to rock it.” The other videos and campaign communications can be found at www.colorado.com/CareForColorado.

To begin our own journey of responsible tourism and what that means for the Durango area, we have created a Responsible Tourism Pledge: https://bit.ly/3g0UW9Z. This pledge helps educate visitors about Leave No Trace, fire safety and other issues important to our community. We want to get to the crux of the issues and make real change. Is there really a lack of parking downtown, or is the actual need for more frequent public transportation options? We all hate litter in the river, but perhaps we don’t just need to educate the public, we also need more trash cans in the open spaces along the shores of the Animas.

Like many small towns, Durango has a very engaged community. There are times when the public attendees at City Council meetings overflow into the lobby. Nobody knows Durango better than its residents, and that is why Visit Durango is, for the first time, incorporating that feedback into our strategies. Many people like to comment on The Durango Herald articles or via social media. But now is not the time to just shout from the sidelines. If you really want to affect positive change, get in the game and make your voice heard.

A sincere thank you from Visit Durango to our community for your participation in this effort. Please go to https://mysay.is/LPCResident and let us know what you think.

Rachel Brown is the executive director of Visit Durango. She can be reached at 261-1052 or rachel@durango.org.

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