President's Message: Economic Sustainable Tourism

Presidents Message: Economic Sustainable Tourism

Stan Clauson, APA Colorado President (Stan Clauson & Associates Inc.)

This edition of the APA-Colorado Newsletter may pose a new idea for some of us. We are more used to pairing the word “environmental” with any concept of sustainability. So exactly what is economically sustainable tourism? Without wanting to pre-empt any of the articles here, let me offer some thoughts.

First of all, economically sustainable tourism involves the renewal of private tourist infrastructure to meet current market demands. Is that funky old lodge still viable for a modern traveling family? It may be a nostalgic heartthrob for some repeat guests, but how does the booking calendar look? You might say that this is a private-sector question, based on private economic decisions. How can planners become involved? Look to your land use code. Does it support the renewal of lodging facilities and associated restaurant and retail? Can your community offer reasonable incentives for renewal and redevelopment of aging lodges? This is a dialogue that every community should have with its tourism sector. Find out what these folks need to support their operations and what incentives might spur new entrepreneurs.

Next, look to your community infrastructure. Do you have a transportation system that readily supports tourism? Have you relied on private vehicles for access to your community and associated venues such that cars are now degrading the tourist environment? Should you provide more parking or would it be better to ratchet down on the parking in favor of shuttles? In the bigger picture, how can a community relate better to transit opportunities: the nearest airport, a specific important tourist venue, or even embracing travel by rail?

Then there is worker housing. Is the money earned by workers in your community lost to places where they actually live? Or is there a program that supports having residents of all economic sectors living in the community? If communities can maintain a balance of residents through the provision of worker housing and retail at all levels, this can provide a constant source of economic activity that keeps business levels sustainable.
Finally, environmental sustainability does relate to economic sustainability. The ski resorts have known this for some time, as can be seen by their efforts to address climate change. Here’s the environmental statement from the Aspen Skiing Company: “Our goal is to stay in business forever. To do that, we must remain profitable; solve climate change; treat our community well; and operate in a manner that doesn’t harm our local environment.” Other resorts have followed suit with strong environmental programs, linking future profitability to environmental sustainability.

For a global vision, I would highly recommend the Harold Goodwin’s book, Taking Responsibility for Tourism. Goodwin is professor of Responsible Tourism Management (now, there’s a unique major!) at the University of Leeds, England, and has lectured widely on how tourism can be structured to really benefit communities.

On a personal note, this is my first newsletter “Message” as incoming Chapter president. I am looking forward to working with all of you to continue the great efforts of Susan Wood, our past president, as well as the Board and all the committees that give so much to our organization. We are also looking forward to greater outreach to our partner organizations representing landscape architects, architects, developers, and the engineering community. Please don’t hesitate to share your thoughts with me. I can be reached at and look forward to hearing from you.

All the best,
Stan Clauson, AICP, ASLA



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