Best of the West: States gearing up for booming tourist season; region scores highly for remote work; a ground-breaking EV partnership in Colorado

The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on the latest news in the West. Here are the top stories for the week starting March 22, 2021. (Photo courtesy Rocky Mountaineer)

While no one can predict the future with certainty, recent declines in COVID-19 cases nationally and the rising number of people being vaccinated has multiple western states preparing for what is expected to be a banner year for visitation. Here’s a look at activity in some states:

Utah: Tourism officials are doing a “modest amount of marketing” to let potential visitors know “there are safe ways to visit the Beehive State,” according to a story by KSL radio. "The goal is to help people understand the responsible ways that they can travel," said state tourism Managing Director Vicki Varela. Officials are hopeful that continued improvement in public health will encourage visitation and reverse 2020 losses of 13% in hospitality jobs and 33% in travel spending.

Colorado: Colorado Public Radio reports the Centennial State saw traveler spending of $9.7 billion between January and March this year, a nearly 50% decline from the same period last year. But the city of Glenwood Springs, for one, is optimistic about a rebound in the year to come, given the reopening of a popular nearby destination, Hanging Lake, after last year’s wildfire in nearby Glenwood Canyon. They’re also looking forward to the August launch of the Rocky Mountaineer, a luxury train that will run from Denver to Moab. Learn more.

Montana: Officials at Glacier National Park have put the finishing touches on a new management plan for the park's Going-to-the-Sun Road that's designed to protect it from "unprecedented visitor use along the scenic corridor.” Glacier Journal reports the new plan gives park managers the tools to handle "skyrocketing visitation" that includes expanding shuttle service, a parking permit system at popular destinations, prohibiting overnight parking, and constructing new parking lots.

New Mexico: Tourism officials tell KOAT that the state saw tourism income decline by $4 billion in 2020, when more than 30,000 New Mexicans lost hospitality jobs. But now the state is reporting rising hotel occupancy since December. A $7 million special appropriation from the Legislature for tourism revitalization, along with $10 million from federal stimulus dollars, also should help marketing efforts.

Idaho: If 2021 is anything like 2020, state parks will see enormous visitation. For proof, just look at the 2020 numbers. The Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation, reports MagicValley.Com, said that "more people visited Idaho State Parks in 2020 than in any year before — by a margin of more than 1.2 million guests. The combined total of resident and nonresident day users, along with resident and nonresident campers, tallied 7,671,582 visitors, blowing away the 2019 record of 6,468,159."

California: Advocates for the state's travel industry are urging the state legislature to pass a one-time $45 million appropriation to support the marketing work of Visit California, which is funded by assessments on state tourism businesses. Because of the pandemic, that income was significantly lower last year.

New Study: Learn in a Headwaters Economics report about new data sources that will better count outdoor recreation users, which in turn will enable trail managers to better advocate for improvements and deal with rising demand.

‘REMOTE’ CONTROL: The past year has seen remote work move from the exception to the rule for an enormous number of workers. That got the team at CareerCloud thinking: Which states are the best places to work remotely? As a result, the career site developed a report that rated states based on three metrics: which have the most promising outlook for remote job growth, the projected growth rates in these jobs through 2028, and the percentage of people in each state with broadband at home. Western states scored highly, with Utah and Colorado topping the list. The Top 25 also includes Washington (4), Texas (6), California (8), Oregon (13), Arizona (20), and Nevada (23). Read the report.

CHARGING AHEAD: A recent podcast episode for our Electric Vehicles Roadmap Initiative highlighted how to enable growth of electric vehicles in the rural West. One way to do that is to make charging stations more ubiquitous, including placement of them at locations such as trailheads. Colorado Public Radio reports that the state of Colorado is taking that premise to the next level via a new partnership with the electric truck and SUV manufacturer Rivian, which has agreed to add at least two chargers at up to 50 Colorado Parks and Wildlife locations, including all 42 state parks. Learn more.

BOILING MYSTERY: What’s the world’s tallest active geyser? You would be forgiven for guessing Old Faithful, given its long-running status as Yellowstone National Park’s most famous feature. But you would also be wrong, because the correct answer is another Yellowstone hot spot: Steamboat Geyser, which sends its boiling water up to 360 feet into the air. That geyser also offers a hint of mystery, owing to fact that it can go dormant for years. The Salt Lake Tribune reports on the work of some University of Utah geologists who are trying to unravel that mystery. Learn more.

STATE OF THE STATE: Western Governors have been delivering their annual State of the State address in recent months. Watch all addresses delivered to date and see a ‘word cloud’ of the top issues discussed by Jared Polis of Colorado, Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma, Mike Dunleavy of Alaska, Greg Gianforte of Montana, Doug Burgum of North Dakota, Brad Little of Idaho, Doug Ducey of Arizona, Laura Kelly of Kansas, Kristi Noem of South Dakota, Steve Sisolak of Nevada, Kate Brown of Oregon, Spencer Cox of Utah, David Ige of Hawaii, Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico, Jay Inslee of Washington, Mark Gordon of Wyoming, Gavin Newsome of California, and Lemanu Mauga of American Samoa. Read, watch all addresses.

Get the latest news about the West and its governors by following the Western Governors' Association on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Check out our podcast, Out West, on PodbeanSpotify and Apple Podcasts

sign up for our newsletters