It’s getting to be that time of year in Colorado Springs — when throngs of people crowd the streets of downtown, Old Colorado City and Manitou Springs, when the cars snake around Garden of the Gods and Pikes Peak, when shops and restaurants are full, parks are busy and trails crowded.
For locals, it means sharing the roads, the infrastructure, the parks we love and the trails we hike with out-of-towners. They are a vital part of our economy — and we still complain about them.
We’re not alone. As the number of tourists increases, cities around the globe are seeing increased conflicts and complaints about tourists from year-round residents. With the growth of Airbnb, tourists seem to be everywhere, all the time.
So what are those other cities doing that we could learn from? Some are using technology to manage crowds, others are taking a firm approach and fining tourists for harming national monuments, city parks and the very treasures they come to see. Still others are marketing lesser known vistas and sites to spread out crowds.
Some cities are responding to the crush of visitors through smart technology, managing ticket sales, varied start times and measuring traffic flow and other green initiatives. Managing tourism could be a natural outreach of the Springs’ Smart Cities initiative launched earlier this year with the goal of using the Internet of Things to make smarter, more sustainable decisions for the city.
Using smart technology through IoT could also create jobs in the tourism industry — hotels, restaurants, transportation and attractions should implement smart technology to handle visitor loads. Data can enhance the visitor experiences as well, since tourists don’t like to wait in lines, get stuck in traffic or be turned away from attractions any more than the rest of us. We should use smart technology and phone applications to connect more people to more places in more interesting ways.
A sustainable, smart city approach will not only create remarkable visits for tourists, it’ll improve the quality of life for those of us who live here.
Thanks to PikeRide, we already have a bicycling program that encourages people to rent bikes to get around Colorado Springs. In Copenhagen, they’ve built on their biking culture through providing bike tours of historical locations, tours showcasing other sustainability projects in the city and its culture.
The city also plans to start a pilot project at Garden of the Gods park by taking tourists in by bus — and increasing parking at Rock Ledge Ranch. Paving that lot could create its own set of infrastructure problems. We need to be sure solutions to one problem don’t create more issues to solve later.
Perhaps the answer lies in promoting lesser-known city attractions, which is the approach visitor-dense Venice has taken. Instead of focusing on its national monuments and historic treasures, Venice also tells tourists of places off the beaten track, of the local favorite haunts. Promoting other parts of the city eases congestion and damage to monuments, according to city officials — and spreads the money that tourists bring around the city, instead of focused solely on specific areas.
With the Pikes Peak Cog Railway closed for the foreseeable future, the city has an opportunity to improve visitors’ experiences — it’ll just take a mix of new technology, marketing ideas and infrastructure investment. But if tourists return to the city repeatedly — and stay longer — it will be a business boon to all of Colorado Springs.