Jennifer Wesselhoff: The power of travel
Park City Pulse
This winter, we saw how travel and tourism can bounce back, reviving locally owned businesses, major resorts and the hundreds of small businesses and employees that support them. It’s proof of “the power of travel” to restore and rebuild, and one reason we are celebrating National Travel and Tourism week May 2-8.
Travel numbers are powerful, indeed. Approximately 11,500 Summit County jobs are tied to tourism, and the economic impact exceeds $1 billion annually. As travelers returned, unemployment dropped from 21.4% in April 2020 to 4.8% today. Tourism is by far our largest industry. We depend on it to continue our recovery into the summer and beyond — and we rely on it to support our quality of life.
Travel also has a less visible role: helping define our identity and culture. The real story is the people behind the data – dreamers who came to our mountain town responding to the call of their hearts.
We Parkites are nature lovers, adventurers and dream seekers desiring an authentic life that resonates. We are here because it feels right. Those who started businesses feel the same way, and it shows.
When travel stopped last spring, Summit County almost immediately lost more than 13,000 jobs, a 28% decrease from the previous year.
Our neighbors responded with heart, ingenuity and compassion. At All Seasons Adventures, Spencer Byrne offers outdoor activities from fly-fishing to dog sledding. He said fear and uncertainty were among his first reactions. “Our darkest moment was when town shut down,” he recalls. “A complete halt was terrifying.”
Spencer responded by making joy an equal priority to safety. “We balanced the seriousness of our protocols with a sense of fun since we attract employees and visitors who want people-focused adventure. We upheld tour quality even though we required masks and a 6-foot distance.”
Spencer and one of his guides, Anya, witnessed the power of travel firsthand during a life-changing moment with a visiting family. “They wanted an outdoor experience for their autistic child, but nothing worked,” he said. With patience and kindness, Anya led an All Seasons Adventures snowshoe excursion “that helped the kiddo have a blast in the snow, discovering nature safely, surrounded by loved ones.” The family was deeply grateful. “We rediscovered together that everyone can find joy and comfort in outdoor recreation,” Spencer said.
At Park City Yoga Adventures, the sudden shutdown affected owner Julie Geisler a little differently as her partner contracted COVID-19 at the same time. Julie decided to post updates on their experience “to add our voice to the message that the response has to focus on the greater good and our collective health.” Julie believes in the power of yoga and mediation and wanted to offer services to support the well-being of the community.
Julie entered a partnership with 4U Ranch in Peoa to offer more outdoor yoga sessions and listened to her employees’ safety concerns. “We tailored our offerings in order to deal with the pandemic, required masks and had solid COVID protocols.”
Julie’s message to the town’s visitors reflects her passion for Park City. “Consider investing in the place you love to play by supporting the nonprofits that make Park City what it is, especially trails and open space,” she says, adding that everyone can learn from Charlie Sturgis’ philosophy and “Practice 10 seconds of kindness.”
Our small business owners and employees help shape the culture of Park City. Help us celebrate the power of travel, share your stories or read more at our KeepItPC Facebook page.
Jennifer Wesselhoff is president and CEO of the Park City Chamber/Bureau. She served for 13 years as president/CEO of the Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau, where she led development of Arizona’s first sustainable tourism plan. She is a certified destination management executive and a sustainability consultant, and loves skiing and hiking with new friends.
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