Lily Brown, manager of the Briar Rose Bed & Breakfast in Boulder, said dozens of people canceled reservations on Thursday and Friday after they saw water from Boulder Creek running rampant through the center of town. She said her establishment only got a little water in the basement, and customers are only gradually coming back.
She hopes the lost business returns when the water recedes, but so far, there is no end in sight.
The good news is that skiing, the highest-profile part of Colorado's $16.7 billion tourism industry — the state's second biggest — hasn't been affected. Most of the resorts are farther to the west.
Colorado is about to launch a national media campaign promoting itself as a ski destination. It was planned before the flooding started. The state doesn't have the budget to do advertising to respond to emergencies, but it does plan to use social media to get the word out about places people can still visit, as it did after the wildfires, tourism director Al White said.
That's an approach that helped Vermont tourism recover after Tropical Storm Irene two years ago. Residents and small business owners began promoting the slogan "I am Vermont Strong" on social media to show that the state was open for business, and state government officials joined in, too. Spending on dining and lodging increased in the month following the storm, a bounce credited to that campaign, said Jen Butson, a spokeswoman for the Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing.
That doesn't tell the whole story, especially for business directly affected by the flooding. The diner that served as the social center of Wilmington, the village near the Killington ski resort, is being rebuilt but hasn't reopened yet, Butson said.
Leinweber said state officials learned valuable lessons from the wildfires about how to organize emergency response teams, quickly set up shelters and map out rescue plans. Tourism interests need their own emergency plan.
"If state officials can have a quick-response team, why can't tourism officials have something ready to go?" he asked. "It's not like this is the first time something like this has happened."
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