One-of-a-Kind Survey of Small Business Owners Along Continental Divide Trail Finds that Trail Users are an Economic Boon

 

A one-of-a-kind survey of small business owners in four states and 16 communities near the Continental Divide Trail shows the trail, the public lands it travels through and the hikers that use it are a vital and growing part of the economic activity in those towns.

The survey of 71 small business owners, conducted by the Continental Divide Trail Coalition (CDTC) during the fall of 2017, shows that small business owners see a strong correlation between the success and promotion of the trail and their bottom lines. The survey—the first of its kind to poll small business owners in small, often remote communities along the trail that runs from Canada to Mexico—unequivocally shows that business owners feel the trail puts their communities on the map as an outdoor recreation hub and draws trail users who spend money at restaurants, hotels, gear shops, grocery stores and other places of business in their communities:

  • 77% of small business owners who responded to the survey say trail users spend money at their business and have had a positive impact on their business
  • 88% say that trail users spend money in their community and have a positive impact on business in general

Business owners also report having seen a number of economic benefits since their towns gained the Continental Divide Trail Community designation from the CDTC. The designation recognizes communities that have committed to promoting and protecting the trail and providing an inviting environment for trail hikers:

  • 67% report seeing an increase in trail users coming through their communities
  • 42% report seeing an increase in traffic from trail users in their businesses
  • 39% report an overall increase in business in their community
  • 61% see an increase in awareness of their community as an outdoor recreation hub

The survey provides a first-hand account of what economic reports on recreation have found—such as the 2017 Outdoor Industry Association report that shows the recreation economy drives $887 billion in consumer spending every year and supports 7.6 million jobs.

Seeing the positive economic impact the trail has on their businesses, it’s not surprising that small business owners in trail communities believe protecting their region’s natural assets will enhance the financial success of small businesses and local economies.

A vast 88% of small business owners say that protecting, promoting and enhancing the Continental Divide Trail is important to the well-being of businesses, jobs and their community’s economy. An overwhelming 95% say that protecting, promoting and enhancing public lands in general is important to the well-being of businesses, jobs, and their community’s economy.

Survey respondents own a variety of businesses: 36% own a hotel or motel; 28% a restaurant, bar or similar business; 22% an outdoor clothing or gear store; 6% an outdoor guide service; 4% a grocery or convenience store; and 4% a RV park or campground.

The vast majority of respondents are small businesses with 98% reporting 50 or fewer employees during the peak season. Indeed, 71% have 10 or fewer employees.

 

Methodology

This was an online survey, conducted by the Continental Divide Trail Coalition using Survey Monkey and in-person interviews, of 71 small business owners. The survey was an opt-in survey sent via email to Continental Divide Trail Coalition associates. Survey responses were also gathered via in-person interviews in communities along the Continental Divide Trail.

 

Acknowledgements
The Continental Divide Trail Coalition would like to thank all the small business owners who took the time to complete our survey and provide valuable feedback that will inform our work in the future.

Business owners owned a variety of service and retail businesses.

  • Hotel or Motel 36%
  • Restaurant bar or similar 28%
  • Outdoor clothing or gear store 23%
  • Outdoor guide service 6%
  • RV Park or campground 4%
  • Grocery store or convenience store 4%

The businesses surveyed were located in four states and 16 communities near the Continental Divide Trail.

  • Breckenridge, CO
  • Chama, NM
  • Cuba, NM
  • Dillon, CO
  • Encampment, WY
  • Grand Lake, CO
  • Grants, NM
  • Lake City, CO
  • Leadville, CO
  • Lincoln, NM
  • Pinedale, WY
  • Pagosa Springs, CO
  • Salida, CO
  • Salmon, ID
  • Silver City, NM
  • South Fork, CO

The vast majority of businesses said protecting, promoting and enhancing the Continental Divide Trail is important to the well-being of businesses, jobs and their community’s economy.

    • Very Important 58%
    • Somewhat Important 30%
    • Neutral. Neither Important nor Unimportant 10%
    • Not so important  1%

 

  • Not at all important  1%

 

Business owners who were located in a community that had the Continental Divide Trail Community designation said the designation had a positive economic impact (respondents checked all that apply).

  • An increase in trail users coming through my community 67%
  • An increase in traffic from trail users at my business 42%
  • An overall increase in business in my community 39%
  • An overall increase in awareness of your community as an
    outdoor recreation hub or destination 61%
  • An overall increase in awareness of the Continental Divide
    Trail among business owners and residents of your community 58%
  • An overall increase in volunteerism in the community 12%
  • I do not see any impact on my community from the designation 12%
  • Don’t know   6%

Business owners in all communities surveyed said they have seen revenue growth in their business in particular due to use of the Continental Divide Trail since 2014.

  • Trail users spend money at my business and have had a significant
    positive impact on my revenue 19%
  • Yes, trail users spend money at my business and have had some
    positive impact on my revenue 59%
  • The Continental Divide Trail has had a negative impact on my revenue  0%
  • No, trail users do not spend money at my business and I do not
    see an impact on my revenue either way 22%

Business owners in all communities surveyed said they have seen growth in business in their communities due to use of the Continental Divide Trail since 2014.

  • Trail users spend money in my community and have had a significant
    positive impact on business in general 16%
  • Trail users spend money in my community and have had some
    positive impact on business in general 72%
  • The Continental Divide Trail has had a negative financial impact
    on businesses in my community 0%
  • No, trail users do not spend money in my community and I do not
    see an impact on business either way 12%

 

The vast majority of businesses said protecting, promoting and enhancing public lands in general was important to the well-being of businesses, jobs and their community’s economy?

  • Very Important 82%
  • Somewhat Important 13%
  • Neutral. Neither Important nor Unimportant 7%
  • Not so important 0%
  • Not at all important 0%

 

Survey respondents are truly small businesses, with the vast majority employing fewer than 50 people during the peak season. The number of employees respondents have, including themselves, are:

  • 1 6%
  • 2-5 49%
  • 6-10 16%
  • 11-25 17%
  • 26-50 10%
  • 51-100  1%
  • More than 100    0%