JACKSON HOLE, WYO – Jackson Hole is not the only community facing too much tourism. Practically all Europe—especially hotspots like Paris and Venice—is so inundated some cities are looking at ways they can discourage travel there. Travel pressure on Iceland, New Zealand, and Cuba has led to the destruction of fragile ecosystems and even food shortages as entire countries struggle to mitigate visitor impact.
Even Jackson, a gateway town to two magnificent national parks and no stranger to the hospitality industry, is starting to feel a strain on the infrastructure. How to effectively and sustainably manage the growing numbers of visitors to Jackson is something two local groups have been thinking very hard about.
The Riverwind Foundation and Jackson Hole Center for Global Affairs announced the release of the Jackson Hole Community Conversation Project report. This report documents the results of a series of community conversations and a workshop that addressed the means for managing the growing numbers of visitors in Jackson Hole.
Two dozen stakeholders participated in the workshops or were solicited individually. They identified the highest priority categories of negative impacts caused by tourism on the brink of excess. They included:
- Natural Resources received 21 out the 67 votes cast
- Traffic and Driving received 20 votes
- Socio-Economic received 18 votes
- Visitor Experience received 8 votes
Priorities identified by the panel included a desire to measure our success as a tourism destination by attracting environmentally and socially educated, responsible visitors (not just quantity of visitors) and encouraging the authenticity of visitor experience. Participants also zeroed in on the characteristics of the most desirable traveler to Jackson. What would this tourist look like? Identifying this type of traveler would help better target marketing efforts.
Here is what they agreed they wanted to see:
- Visitors attracted to the vision, values and achievements, and experiences promoted by our community
- Longer stays, allowing for:
- A fuller, more authentic experience
- Less intensive schedule of activities supporting a more restful experience
- Less traffic and environmental impact due to familiarization with and use of mass transit and alternative forms of transportation with possible lessening of traffic and parking congestion
- Greater opportunity for our community’s messaging to be received (e.g., about environmental values, behavioral norms, safety with driving and wildlife interaction, etc.) and probability that our visitor education efforts are successful
- More effective visitor word of mouth marketing due to a better experience
- More chances for visitors to get off the beaten path as they have time to explore the major attractions and then additional locations
- Increased opportunities for spending/taxation as visitors shift to longer stays in winter. At the same time, it was recognized that people define environmentally and socially responsible travel in different ways, and that some visitors may be looking for authenticity of experience in terms of adventure-seeking, not the restfulness of the experience
The report is part of a project undertaken by Riverwind and JHCGA to assist the community in realizing the vision of the Town of Jackson and Teton County, adopted unanimously in April 2017, to become a world-leading sustainable community and destination.
David Wendt, president of JHCGA, stated, “I am proud of our two organizations for steeping up to this challenge on behalf of the community. Both park superintendents have encouraged us to gather the community’s input to help them manage this issue.”
The Jackson Hole Community Conversation project is a preliminary step in gathering input from a wider range of community residents and stakeholders to organize action towards this goal. The next step in this process will be preparation of a full Sustainable Destination Management Plan (SDMP).
“The Jackson Hole Community Conversation Project has been immensely valuable in not only identifying and prioritizing issues and solutions for managing visitors and their impacts, but also provides momentum and valuable input to the creation of a plan for guiding the future of tourism in Jackson Hole,” said Riverwind Foundation executive director, Tim O’Donoghue.