Visitors Centers need revisiting
The prospect appears that a county dependent on tourism, especially the ability to draw traffic from a busy Interstate 70, will have zero visitor information centers close to that well-traveled highway.While that may seem inconceivable in our sales tax-driven environment, the reality is a cash crunch is forcing the Summit County Chamber of Commerce to cut costs and sacrifice the visitors information centers.June 15, the chamber is closing the Frisco center located next to Subway on Summit Boulevard. By the end of the month, the Silverthorne center in the Factory Stores complex could be shuttered, but there’s a glimmer of hope there because of a relationship with the Factory Stores management.The problem is money. For a long time, the Summit Chamber has kept the two centers operating by begging the ski resorts and the county and town governments for money.Supplemental fundraisers have also come and gone, and once, the chamber even tried selling cookie dough.Until two years ago, the Board of County Commissioners was the heaviest hitter, donating $30,000 a year in taxpayers’ funds. Then came the sales-tax plunge, and the donation went to $10,000 annually.That was the beginning of the end, but it would be unfair to blame the commissioners for the demise. The dollars available for the information centers was never certain and never sustainable.In contrast, the Breckenridge Resort Chamber receives dedicated funding from Breckenridge to market the town. Visitor centers in Vail are generously helped by Vail town government.About five years ago, chamber leaders tried to get a ballot question seeking a permanent revenue stream from the vendors fees Colorado pays stores and restaurants for collecting sales taxes. The effort failed.It now seems unlikely the Summit Chamber will ever enjoy a permanent revenue stream, and even if an initiative to establish a permanent revenue stream were proposed it would take up to two years to put in place. In other words, it would be of little help at the moment.The only rescue will come from what we hope will be a motivated business community and renewed support from the town councils and county commissioners.
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