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What does tourism look like this summer? 

As the COVID-19 pandemic begins to feel like it is subsiding, given the decreases in infection rates, hospitalizations and deaths, combined with the rapid increase in vaccinations, thoughts in the tourism industry focus on returning to a pre-pandemic normal. Many tourism destinations, attractions, lodging, restaurant providers, retail stores and recreation providers – as well as residents and local governments – are asking (or at least thinking), what will tourism look like this summer?

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Introducing a new series 

Follow along as we begin a new weekly article series examining post-COVID economic trends in mountain resort communities.

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Destinations Talk Radio

Insights Collective Partner Carl Ribaudo was a recent guest on the Destinations Talk Radio podcast with host Kurt Burkhardt.

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Weekly Virus Tracking Reports

Graphs contained in this report provide a summary of nationwide COVID cases and testing as well as regional breakouts of feeder markets, Western mountain destinations and Southeast destinations.


Also included are graphs showing a comparison of the destinations/feeder markets that we track within some individual states.

Note: To receive these reports directly to your email on a regular basis, please sign up on the form at the bottom of this page.

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Decline of long-lead bookings makes season ahead harder to predict

Tom Foley authored this week's article in our ongoing series. As mountain destinations anticipate or begin ski operations for the 2020-21 winter season, all eyes — from state and local government to the liftie — are focused on what the season will look like not only operationally on the mountain, but downstream through the balance of the community. 

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Forecasting the Winter Season: Forces at Play in a Pandemic Economy

We were honored to present at VRMIntel's recent DARM conference and to then have an overview of that presentation published in the most recent VRMIntel publication:


How can destination resorts plan and prepare for the upcoming Winter 2020/2021 season when there are so many unknowns and so few reliable data sets or precedents?

They begin by understanding where things stand for seven key drivers, which will then inform and shape the three destination travel scenarios.


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Complete destinations: Not Just Skiing

This week's article was written by Dave Belin.  Successful towns and cities all over the world strive to improve the quality of life for residents, which in turn often makes these locations attractive for visitors and second-home owners. One of the keys to that success is collaborative partnerships between different entities, both public and private, toward a common goal. 


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Lessons to Date: Legacies around the corner

Ralf Garrison and Susan Rubin-Stewart joined forces to author this week's article.  With the 2020 election behind us and winter season just around the corner, it’s time to turn our attention toward the future and how it will impact those of us who live and work in mountain resort communities. Using Insights Collective think tank and lodging tax data, we’ll recap evidence to date, then summarize our current thinking about the key factors upon which 2021 will depend. 


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Vacations shift into longer, seasonal stays and relocation

Brian London returns to author this sixth article in our series.  The pandemic has accelerated the exodus from dense, crowded urban areas to remote, unpopulated resort areas. This in-migration is traced back to the perception of personal safety that can be obtained by living in uncrowded, unspoiled destinations. 


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Survey reveals ski resort visitors’ top concerns for upcoming winter

Dave Belin contributed this week's series article.  The intention to ski and snowboard this winter is strong, season pass purchase is up nationally, and skiers are planning for a socially-distanced, face-covered winter at mountain resorts, with some adjustments to their typical behavior. 

These topics and more were part of a comprehensive national survey that RRC Associates conducted with skiers and snowboarders in September of 2020. The survey received over 20,000 responses from all corners of the U.S. and provides unique insight to what skiers and snowboarders are expecting for the 2020/21 season. 


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Should tourism return to “normal?”

Our fourth article is authored by Carl Ribaudo. Remember the fondness one had for 2019 and the previous decade when tourism experienced some of the most significant travel spending increases?

Tourism industry revenues grew with hotels sprouting and new restaurant concepts at every turn. Consumers were absorbing price increases without much complaint, and municipalities enjoyed strong transient occupancy and sales tax growth. If only this virus could be tamed, and things could return to what was once familiar.


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Welcoming visitors while keeping communities safe

This next article in our series was penned by Brian London. Residents, not visitors, are the ultimate customers of destination marketing organizations, which is why it’s important that tourism address the needs of residents first. 

Resident sentiment can determine a destination’s ability to bounce back from the pandemic-recession. It’s hard to see a best-case recovery scenario without support for visitors from the resident population. 

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Creating positive wins for mountain destination marketers

Tom Foley brings us the second article in this series. For decades, as weekends have reached maximum practical capacity, mountain destination marketers have been looking for ways to spread visitation across midweek and lengthen stay duration, what one calls “the holy grail” of travel consumer patterns. 

And now, with consumer behavior shifting both by economic circumstance and emotion, that holy grail is edging nearer at an increasingly faster rate with each passing month. 

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Do we have what it takes for pandemic-era success?

Written by Carl Ribaudo here is the first article in the "New realities in a pandemic economy series." Reduced capacities and altered travel habits have upended tourist economies’ reliance on consumer spending, employment and local tax collections. But it’s how well a destination manages COVID-19 that is emerging as the essential key to pandemic-era success. 

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The road ahead: New realities in a pandemic economy

By Ralf Garrison & Bob Brown, Steamboat Pilot & Today is pleased to announce a new series, “The road ahead: New realities in a pandemic economy,” launching in Wednesday’s paper dedicated specifically to the COVID-19 pandemic economy in mountain resort communities across the West.

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Destination Scenario Planning in the Age of COVID

Written by Tom Foley and Carl Ribaudo, this paper is based on an industry discussion to identify if scenario planning can benefit a tourism destination during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a moment of destination travel evolution that has a beginning, no middle and a long-tail end.

Click here to read the full paper.

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