Wildfires and how they impact economy, tourism

Posted at 9:42 PM, Jun 14, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-14 23:42:35-04

Another damaging side effect of wildfires-how they hurt economies and tourism.

Currently, in areas like Durango, hotel occupancy rates are down and people are canceling their trips. These impacts have been felt before in the Pikes Peak region after devastating fires. News 5 spoke with Tatiana Bailey, director of the UCCS Economic Forum, to find out what might happen if another wildfire were to spark.

Bailey says Colorado Springs tourism has really taken off in the last two years. Millions more in visitors are coming to the area, increasing revenue and creating more jobs. If the region were to have a repeat of the wildfires from 2012 and 2013 the golden era, as Bailey calls it, could be over. 

"It would be pretty devastating if we had something like 2012 and 2013 happen here again."

The Waldo Canyon and Black Forest fires blazed their way through hundreds of homes, but also, the economy and tourism of the Pikes Peak region. 

Bailey said, "They made a lot of people decide not to come to this region for about two to three years, so it took us kind of a long time to recover from that because unfortunately people had the image that it was a dangerous place to come."

According to Longwoods International, tax collections for lodging and renting cars were down .45 percent at the end of 2012. The Colorado Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau adding that before the Waldo Canyon Fire the region was on pace to have a record-setting tourism season. The good news is that visitor numbers have broken records since then which has helped fuel job growth and the local economy. 

"Tourism definitely fills summer jobs for kids or part-timers and so forth."

In 2016 the region welcomed 23 million people, a 12 percent increase from 2015 which saw 20.5 million. These visitors spent about $2.2 billion. 

"It would be really sad if we had something happen this year or next in particular because of this positive trajectory that we’re on."

With several new attractions like the Olympic Museum and the Pikes Peak Summit House to open in the coming years Bailey said, "You look at that and it’s all the more reason that our tourism industry’s probably going to continue to flourish."

To stay on that "positive trajectory" it will be a statewide effort in being careful and diligent to prevent more wildfires.