Wednesday, October 07, 2020

As rural resort towns' tourism season ends, challenges loom

"Many rural resort towns nationwide where people can hike, bike and relax outdoors experienced better-than-expected visitor numbers this summer, and some also are experiencing a real estate boom as visitors snap up second homes or decide to move there permanently," Sophie Quinton reports for Stateline.

"But towns that benefited from full restaurant patios and busy shops this summer still face economic challenges. The summer season wasn’t as good for businesses, or for sales tax collections, as the summer of 2019. Spring shutdowns left business owners and local governments with big budget holes to fill, and while mountain towns are hoping to welcome more visitors during fall leaf-peeping season, what will happen during the cold winter months remains an open question."

U.S. Department of Agriculture data show that "urban and rural counties with recreation-focused economies had higher unemployment rates in June than places that relied on other sectors, such as manufacturing or government jobs," Quinton reports. "But rural recreation counties are better off than their urban counterparts. Such counties had a 10 percent unemployment rate in June, according to the agency, three percentage points lower than urban recreation counties."

Quinton reports mainly from Colorado, but reflects a mixed bag across the nation: "One indicator of outdoor recreation activity, National Park Service visitation numbers, are all over the map, said Megan Lawson, who studies rural economies for Headwaters Economics, a nonpartisan research nonprofit based in Bozeman, Mont. She told Quinton, “Several of them actually had higher visitation in August than they did in the previous year, which I think is doubly remarkable because they’ve eliminated most of their international visitors.”

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