Some come to Jackson Hole for the outdoor adventure, others arrive to pursue an entrepreneurial dream, while many are simply seeking a community of like-minded people. The Jackson Hole lifestyle is what makes this valley the place to visit and live..
The backbone of our strong local economy is tourism. With record visitation expected and a controversial housing market, how do we remain welcoming and not become another mass-market tourist attraction?
We spoke to Kate Foster, Communications Manager for the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce about the future of tourism in Teton County.
Q: The last recession hit JH hard. What initiatives is the Chamber taking to help avoid this in the future?
This is a resilient community.
Mountain men explored this part of the Oregon Territory after members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition skirted it in the early nineteenth century; they were the first to document the region.
Eventually, settlers came to enjoy the region’s opportunities. However, the designation of the federal public lands changed the valley’s character by fostering, in part, the decline of ranching and spurring interest in the area as a tourist destination.
Today, almost 97 percent of Teton County is public land, making private real estate and housing valuable. Jackson Hole still experiences tremendous pressure to grow and develop. Tourism remains the most important industry as millions of visitors come to experience the scenery, wildlife, recreation, and geographic features.
The Chamber’s engagement in sustainable tourism trends help the Jackson Hole community preserve a respectful connection to the land that makes it famous.
Working with our local and state legislators has become a key focus. We help organize an event during the annual Wyoming Legislative Session that allows Chamber representatives and local business owners to meet and network with legislators from around the state to help educate them about the importance of tourism.
Q: With expected record visitation and controversial housing markets, how can the Chamber help alleviate this stress to the community and local economy?
While increased summer visitation has also increased stress, the community still experiences significant drops between Labor Day and Memorial Day. We want to help the community develop a more sustainable, year-round economy. Special events like Memorial Day Old West Days and Labor Day Fall Arts Festival both draw visitors during shoulder seasons..
Fifteen years ago a lot of businesses closed for the winter, but the expansion of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and the upgrade of Jackson Hole Airport with direct connections to national hubs, boosted tourism enough to help local businesses stay open year-round.
JHMR recently celebrated their 50th anniversary and on-mountain improvements continue to draw everyone from hard-core skiers to families with children who are still learning how to make a pizza slice with their little skis.
As we continue to grow, the Chamber is very conscious of maintaining a sustainable level of tourism. Residents can rest assured that we are working every day to ensure a great future for Teton County.
Sometimes it might feel like this town is bursting at the seams, but there is a bright, sustainable future for Jackson. With the help of the Chamber of Commerce and their initiatives, we continue to seek the perfect balance to sustain tourism, local business and that small mountain town community we all love.