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Forward together


  • By Michael Martelon, Telluride Tourism Board


Seems simple enough. Clearly, it’s a better way to approach most anything. Together, for instance, we as a community continue to navigate this global pandemic. 

With the arrival of vaccines in San Miguel County, we are methodically continuing a slow march toward what we all hope is an eventual return to a new normalcy. 

(An aside: In my opinion, the orderly professionalism of the countywide vaccine program to date has been entirely reflective of the orderly professionalism shown throughout the Covid-19 pandemic by our local public health officials and medical professionals.)

To be sure, our march has obstacles and making it through this winter still hangs entirely on one hook: complying with the Five Commitments together. 

In other words, together, we need to accept being apart from each other a little longer.

As the pandemic has progressed, another challenge has emerged as economists sound the alarm on a K-shaped economic recovery that is only serving to accelerate inequality.

That K-shaped recovery — where the fortunes of some are skyrocketing while those of others stagnate or dip, forming a “K” on an economist’s graph — is happening locally too.

It’s a sign that we as a community need to understand and work to manage our recovery together.

In our little hamlet, for instance, liquor, cannabis, grocery, real estate and those connected to real estate transactions are all gratefully surprised I’m sure as they ride out, reasonably well, these strange times. 

Meanwhile, wedding planners, events, bars, theaters, music venues and festivals are struggling, as are restaurants, retailers, lodgers and the professional services and nonprofit communities. 

In 2020, the total sales tax collected by the Town of Telluride and the Town of Mountain Village shows only a single-digit decrease from 2019. We know, we know, we talk about sales tax a lot. Sales tax, though, is an important metric, one we monitor closely to better understand how our local economy and community are faring. 

In this case, that single-digit decrease is masking somewhat the reality that some sectors of our local economy are coping and others are not.

With this in mind and as we look forward to summer 2021, over the last several months we at the Telluride Tourism Board have utilized both our expertise and our experiences as people who live and work here. We have examined the data and listened to community members to see what is working and what can be improved upon.

In particular, our aim is to work together with elected officials from both towns and the county on a process to get this summer “right”. It’s a process that will seek to address everything from the local experience to visitor flows (people as well as traffic) and more.

The TTB also continues to support the work, under the county’s oversight, of the Economic Recovery Committee in addressing the concerns and issues facing local small business owners, especially against that backdrop of an uneven recovery.

On the key question of how festivals will fare this summer, we recently heard from Planet Bluegrass’s Craig Ferguson. Craig is very wrapped up in proposing, for local approval, creative ideas for music to grace our canyon safely this summer.

Elsewhere in the arts community, we are excited to see what Kate Jones, Judy Kohin, Ronnie Palamar, Colin and Sasha Sullivan and others do to build on last summer’s creative offerings with more of their trademark innovative thinking. The festivals and arts sectors know they have our support and available resources as needed.

Reflective of a pivot, begun pre-pandemic, from an entity that markets the destination to one that contemplates and supports management of the destination, my colleagues and I also remain involved in a number of initiatives and collaborations — with the Telluride Mountain Club, the dining and retail communities, the Telluride Ecology Commission and Mountain Village Green Team, among others — and still others yet to come.

Navigating the pandemic has taken the efforts of the entire community working together. Navigating a potential emergence from the Covid crisis and economic recovery will take the efforts of us all, once again working together.

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