A recent member survey confirms a trend we’ve noticed: In a post-COVID world, Park City business owners, many of them long-time Parkites, are prioritizing environmental stewardship. The three issues they rate as most important are recycling, sustainability and climate change. I hear this sentiment echoed around Summit County as people ponder our post COVID future; a vision is emerging of a green, sustainable and prosperous Park City.

To make that a reality, we must plan for it. This summer we begin an exciting new journey to take us there. The first step is a deep dive into our current situation by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, the world’s most respected sustainable tourism analysts. GSTC leaders will be here this summer, connecting with tourism stakeholders, visiting venues and listening to what Parkites have to say. They will evaluate us relative to more than three dozen criteria representing our environment, governance, cultural resources, and socio-economic wellbeing. As it relates to tourism management, their report will identify our strengths and risks and recommend actions.

We’re excited because the GSTC report will really get the conversation going — a starting point for residents, visitors, businesses, governments and NGOs to get specific about building a sustainable future and tracking the results. We’re looking forward to organizing venues, websites, surveys, public meetings and other methods of giving everyone a voice in producing a tourism management roadmap with a distinct Park City flavor. An inclusive process that respects all perspectives should take about a year, so by next summer, we could have a stewardship plan integrating all that makes Park City special — a robust economy, unique way of life, breathtaking natural environment and a travel experience that moves visitors to come back again and again.

Other destinations are showing the way and can offer some insight.

Hawaii’s Malam Hawaii (Care for Hawaii) program puts local sentiment — how communities feel about tourism — on an equal footing for policy-making purposes with traditional metrics such as economic impact. Hawaii responds to visitors’ desire for an authentic connection by organizing green volunteer opportunities, and businesses are supportive. Alaska Airlines is planting 900 native trees on denuded ranch land which travelers can “adopt.” Some hotels are offering free nights to tourists who “voluntour.”

Colorado’s “Are you Colo-Ready?” disperses crowds by promoting alternative sites to popular venues. The program also showcases Colorado’s environmental ethics and helps tourists see themselves as the main solution to sustaining the state’s world-famous beauty.

Sedona, Arizona created 63 tactics to achieve sustainability, identifying timelines and groups responsible for action. The results are impressive; more than 100 local businesses have achieved ‘certified sustainable’ status in the Plan’s first two years, for example. Sedona started its process with a GSTC analysis.

As the Chamber|Bureau kicks off a new fiscal year with renewed optimism and passion for Park City’s future, we sense a terrific opportunity for Parkites to shape a long-term stewardship and sustainability plan. Along the way, we will learn much, get to know each other better, accomplish a task we can all be proud of, and benefit Summit County and Park City residents and visitors alike.