We depend on tourism for jobs, business opportunities, tax revenues, and our excellent arts, culture, dining, and high-quality health care. But we also know tourism’s downsides –  traffic, crowds in town and on the mountain, environmental risk, and rising housing costs.

So what are our priorities as we determine what’s next for Park City? New research from the Utah Office of Tourism has tantalizing clues.

The Institute broke out the Park City results in its recent statewide survey on tourism attitudes. Survey sizes were small, so the margin of error is high, but what do you think of these PC responses?

Most of those surveyed (59%) say tourism’s positives outweigh the negatives. 28% are neutral. Almost everyone(85%) sees tourism as important to the local economy.

A large majority (79%) think tourism has enhanced our reputation, and three out of four feel we provide a positive experience for visitors. In addition, two-thirds say tourism supports businesses important to them.

Large majorities agree that tourism improves our dining options, arts scene and cultural experiences, and the quality of local events.

A plurality (50%) enjoys interacting with visitors – although a significant percentage (22) do not. Most (55%) disagree with the idea that PC would be duller without tourists.

We also lean toward believing tourism has caused a decline in our quality of life. A plurality (44%) say QOL is down, and 26% say it is significantly down. But one-third think it has lifted our quality of life, and 9% believe it strongly.

Nevertheless, a vast majority (86%) say our way of life has changed to suit visitors, and most (53%) see a negative environmental impact from tourism.

What to do? We are practically unanimous (94%) that we must protect the environment and repair damaged areas. No other community surveyed in Utah believes this more strongly than Parkites.

A large majority (78%) say we should be educating visitors about responsible recreation, with 61% feeling strongly about this.

Huge majorities, in the upper 70s and upper 80s, think we need to focus on public transit and parking solutions. Almost all (88%) agree we should be improving roads, trails, campgrounds, and parks while preserving our history.

These responses ring true to me.  They show we see tourism’s pluses, minuses and gray areas with the sophistication that makes us human.

But one astute question and its remarkable answer stood out above the rest:  Do you believe natural resource protection and tourism can be compatible?

Sixty-one percent of Parkites say yes, they are compatible. Thirty-nine percent believe it strongly.

This shows that we understand we can place economic needs and our environment on metaphorical scales, recognize their effect on each other and constantly adjust the balance. This is precisely the mindset informing the Park City Sustainable Tourism Plan, a roadmap for tourism management that embodies community priorities such as these. Our volunteer Stewardship Council is preparing a draft for final public review this summer.

But why wait to get updated? Mallory Bateman, Director of Demographic Research and the State Data Center at the Gardener Institute, will deliver the morning keynote, and sustainable tourism will be a breakout topic at the Wasatch Back Economic Summit at the Zermatt Resort in Midway, Tuesday, May 17, from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Other hot topics include recruiting and retaining great employees, regional housing solutions, and more. It’s a perfect way to connect and enjoy the beautiful surroundings. Registration is easy at visitparkcity.com/members. Do it today while tickets are still available!