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Global tourism continues steady growth

Tourists take photos at the Golden Gate Bridge overlook in Marin County, California.

Tourists take photos at the Golden Gate Bridge overlook in Marin County, California. Bob Berwyn photo.

UN officials see tourism as an economic pillar

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Now that the World Tourism Organization has counted every last airline traveler, cruise passenger and backpacker, it’s official — international tourist arrivals grew by 4 percent in 2012 to surpass 1 billion for the first time ever, according to the latest update of the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer.

Emerging economies led the way, showing growth of 4.1 percent, compared to 3.6 percent growth among advanced economies, with Asia and the Pacific showing the strongest results. By region, Asia and the Pacific showed 7.1 percent growth. By sub-region, South-East Asia, North Africa (both at  plus 9 percent) and Central and Eastern Europe (plus 8 percent) topped the rankings.

Tourism officials say they expect growth to continue in 2013 at a slightly slower pace between 3 and 4 percent, continuing the trend from the last quarter of 2012, when demand was stronger than expected. Continue reading

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Colorado’s outdoor industry reppin’ at Euro trade show

Tourism, trade offices team up to create ‘Colorado Pavilion’ at ISPO in Munich, Germany

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Europe seen as important market for Colorado tourism and outdoor companies.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Along with several companies that won state grants to display their products at a huge international sports and outdoor trade show in Munich, Germany, state tourism officials will also present information about Colorado to an international audience at ISPO this week.

Working with gear-makers like Icelantic Skis and Boo Bicycles, trade representatives will work with European-based representatives to staff a Colorado-themed booth at show, showcasing the state and its wares at a Colorado Pavilion.

Most of the companies are homegrown Colorado enterprises, and several of them produce their entire line right here in the state, said Stephanie Dybsky, with the Office of Economic Development and International Trade.

“No other state does something like this,” Dybsky said, explaining that the mission is part of Gov. John Hickenlooper’s efforts to grow Colorado exports to Europe. The outdoor industry was identified in a recent study as one of the sectors having huge potential in growing worldwide industry that isn’t as susceptible to economic ups and downs as some other types of businesses.

Currently, Colorado exports about $1.5 billion in commodities (not services) to Europe. That total dipped as low as $1 billion right after the 2008 recession after peaking at about $1.7 billion in 2008.

ISPO is primarily a business-to-business show, and the goal is to connect Colorado companies with new leads and potential distributors for their products.

Several of the companies included in the joint pavilion have already had success in the export market, including Icelantic Skis, which sells gear all over Europe, according to COO Annelise Loevlie.

Icelantic has also previously attended ISPO, helping to broaden European distribution through Switzerland, Austria and even Russia, Loevlie said.

ISPO Munich offers the latest products, trends and innovations from the entire outdoor sports industry. The show features more than 2,300 exhibitors to 80,000 visitors from over 100 countries. Featured sports include alpine skiing, camping, climbing, fishing, mountain biking, running and snowboarding.

The following companies will be represented in the Colorado Pavilion at ISPO Munich 2013:

•    Aluboo & Boo Bicycles, Fort Collins
•    Big Shot Bikes, Fort Collins
•    CandyGrind, Denver
•    Icelantic Skis, Denver
•    Kinderlift of Colorado, Denver
•    Mountain Shades, Wheat Ridge
•    Newton Running, Boulder
•    Obermeyer, Aspen
•    Phunkshun Wear, Denver
•    Sport Bumper, Denver
•    Tailwind Nutrition, Durango
•    Venture Snowboards, Silverton

You can follow the happening from the Colorado Pavilion in Munich on Twitter: @ColoradoITO.

Forest Service to address the tangled status of ski area water rights with a public process

Federal court ruling sends agency back to the drawing board

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The U.S. Forest Service will hold a public process to develop a new agency guideline for adminstering water rights at ski areas operating on public lands. Bob Berwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — After being rebuffed in federal court, the U.S. Forest Service will start anew at developing new water-rights language for ski area permits. The agency plans to start taking public input this spring on the new directive, which would clarify ownership of water rights on national forest lands.

The Forest Service most recently issued a new water rights directive in Dec. 2012, aiming to establish that certain water rights have to remain linked with the ski areas where the water is used to ensure the long-term sustainability of the resorts.

The ski industry interpreted at least parts of the new directive as a direct grab of water rights that are properly administered under state water law. A year-long lawsuit ended in Dec. 2012 with a court telling the Forest Service it must use a public process to develop a new directive.

“The agency’s announcement and the agency’s recent policy that was struck down in federal court both assume that water should run with the land. This approach reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of water law in the West,” said Geraldine Link,  public policy director for the National Ski Areas Association.

Continue reading

Colorado: Governor requests spending increases for education, wildfire mitigation and fracking studies

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper.

State ranks near the bottom for per-pupil funding

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — As Colorado’s budget picture continues to brighten, Gov. John Hickenlooper this week requested budget amendments that would boost spending on education and allocate funds to study environmental impacts of energy development and for forest health work.

The 2013-2014 budget will be the first in several years that includes more spending on education and without any big cuts. Overall, the state’s general fund is expected grow by about $.5 billion, from 7.6 billion to $8.1 billion.

State budget officials said Hickenlooper’s request fulfills his intent to spend increased revenue on education, public health, safety and infrastructure. Specifically, spending on k-12 education would increase by $12.8 million, boosting per-student funding to $6,607 dollars, up $228 from last year.

Only a handful of states spend less per pupil than Colorado, including Arizona, Nevada, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, North Carolina. See the rankings here. Top-ranked states like New York, Vermont and Connecticut spend about twice as much per student. Continue reading

Colorado: Fossil fuel industry seeks to block citizen comments at formal hearing on new oil and gas drilling rules

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Oil and gas drilling near schools and homes in Firestone, Colorado. Photo courtesy Shane Davis, Sierra Club, Rocky Mountain Chapter.

Industry says personal statements on impacts fall outside the evidentiary scope of the commission hearings

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — The battle over proposed new oil and gas drilling regulations in Colorado has intensified in advance of next week’s Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission hearings on new setback requirements for energy development.

Energy companies, represented by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association and the Colorado Petroleum Association, sought to block some citizen testimony, saying it’s irrelevant and non-scientific. The motions filed by the industry groups requests that some submitted testimony be stricken from the record because it’s “harassing and abusive” to the industry.

Read the citizen statements here. Read the industry’s motions here and here.

Conservation groups advocating for stronger environmental and health protections, specifically for more distance between drilling sites and residential areas, said the motions are insulting to citizens of Colorado.

“It’s undemocratic. It’s a bullying tactic. They want citizens to be worried about whether they’ll be allowed to speak,” said Mike Chiropolos, of Western Resource Advocates, adding that the current draft rule tilts too far toward industry interests. Continue reading

Tourism: 1 billion travelers take to the road in 2012

Travel continues to boost economies around the world

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Europe still accounts for more than half of the global tourism market, but Asia is catching up.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — As expected, global tourism hit a significant milestone late this year, with more than 1 billion travelers taking to the skies, seas and highways to visit destinations near and far, according to the World Tourism Organization, which closely monitors world travel statistics.

Tourism growth continued in 2012 despite continued economic challenges. The WTO said the relative strength of sector underscores the economic importance of tourism, accounting for 9 percent of global GDP (direct, indirect and induced impact), one in every 12 jobs and up to 8 percent of the total exports of the world’s least developed countries.

“Today, we welcome the symbolic arrival of the one-billionth tourist” UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai said Dec. 13 at a ceremony in Madrid.

Rifai emphasized travel and tourism as a potentially powerful force for good:

“Your actions count. That is our message to the one billion tourists. Through the right actions and choices, each tourist represents an opportunity for a fairer, more inclusive and more sustainable future,” he said.

As it is impossible to know exactly where the one-billionth tourist arrived, so many countries  celebrated the the occasion by welcoming tourists arriving on 13 December.

To coincide with the milestone, the WTO launched a new One Billion Tourists: One Billion Opportunities campaign, showing tourists that respecting local culture, preserving heritage or buying local goods when travelling can make a big difference. The public was asked to vote for the Travel Tip that would have the greatest benefit for the people and places they visit and to pledge to follow that tip when traveling.

The winning tip, revealed on the arrival date of the one-billionth tourist, was “buy local,” encouraging tourists to buy food and souvenirs locally, or hire local guides, to ensure their spending translates into jobs and income for host communities. A close second, “respect local culture,” calls on tourists to learn more about their destination’s traditions, or some words in the local language, before leaving home.

 

Insurance industry tunes into global warming risks

Big business keenly aware of potential climate change costs

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November 2012 was another very warm month for much of the planet. Graphic courtesy NASA.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — In a sure sign that the global warming denial movement is losing ground quickly, some of the world’s most calculating businesses, including the insurance industry, are paying more and more attention to climate change.

In the long run, the political bickering over climate policy may not seem so important if the country’s largest companies start to take the issue seriously. Proof that climate is more than just a theoretical concept for corporations comes from a study published last week in the journal Science.

“Weather- and climate-related insurance losses today average $50 billion a year. These losses have more than doubled each decade since the 1980s, adjusted for inflation,” said lead author Evan Mills, a scientist in Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab)’s Environmental Energy Technologies Division. “Insurers have become quite adept at quantifying and managing the risks of climate change, and using their market presence to drive broader societal efforts at mitigation and adaptation.” Continue reading

Colorado: Budget juggling to speed highway projects

New accounting system doesn’t solve state’s long-term transportation woes

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Highway projects in Colorado will get a boost from a new budgeting regime.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Colorado transportation officials say they will juggle their budgets to accelerate completion of transportation projects and create or sustain more than 10,500 jobs over five years.

Currently, CDOT does not advertise a project until all of the money is “in the bank,” which means the department is saving money for projects over multiple years before construction begins. In addition, some projects take several years to construct, so money often sits unspent when it could be used much sooner.

Under the new program, CDOT will fund multi-year projects based on year of expenditure, rather than saving for the full amount of a project before construction begins. This effort will match project expenditures with available revenues and allow CDOT to allocate an additional $300 million per year over five years to transportation projects over the next five years. Continue reading

Skiing: Sandy dampens early season gear sales

Uncertain snow, looming fiscal cliff make for shaky retail outlook

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Hurricane Sandy had a huge impact on early season ski gear sales. NASA Photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Coming on the same day that NOAA announced that 2012 will most likely the warmest year ever in the U.S. and a study describing the cost of global warming to the ski industry, another report suggests that the climate disruption from Hurricane Sandy was a factor in an early season sales decline.

SnowSports Industries America announced that sales for the August through October period were down 2 percent compared to last year. For October alone, sales declined 5 percent from 2011.

Sales of snowsports-related gear totaled $616 million, the retail trade group said, acknowledging that Hurricane Sandy caused significant disrutopns in the South and Northeast. Uncertainty in the face of the fiscal cliff, and lack of momentum from the snow-challenged 2011-2012 season presented additional challenges.

In late October, Hurricane Sandy disrupted lives and retail sales with blizzard conditions, severe flooding and wind damage to much of the Eastern Seaboard. In the South and Northeast regions retail was shut down for days. Continue reading

Report: Ski industry sees $1 billion in global warming losses

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Global warming likely to inflict significant economic losses on ski industry. Bob Berwyn photo.

Costs expected to mount as temperatures rise

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A new report on the economic costs of global warming to the ski industry will resonate especially loudly during Colorado’s second consecutive early season snow drought.

With the state’s major ski resorts struggling to open just minimal amounts of terrain in time for the busy Christmas holiday season, two University of New Hampshire researchers estimate that the $12.2 billion industry has already suffered a $1 billion loss and dropped up to 27,000 jobs due to diminished snow fall patterns and the resulting changes in the outdoor habits of Americans.

More than 23 million people participated in winter sports during the winter 0f 2009-2010.  Snow-related economic activity resulted in $1.4 billion in state and local taxes and $1.7 billion in federal taxes.

The economic study was prepared for the nonprofit groups Protect Our Winters and the Natural Resources Defense Council. The two organizations have partnered the past few years to raise awareness of climate-change impacts to snow-dependent mountain communities and snow sports industries. Continue reading

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