Telluride Town Council approved a new contract with the Telluride Tourism Board that calls out greater transparency and a more educational approach to the visitor experience. (Planet file photo)

Telluride Town Council unanimously agreed during Tuesday’s meeting to a new contract with Telluride Tourism Board (TTB), an agreement that will focus on so-called “sustainable tourism.”

The new contract between the Town of Telluride and TTB, formerly known as Marketing Telluride, Inc. (MTI), will cost the town $990,000 annually, and calls out greater transparency with public meetings. TTB’s budget and proposed services will be approved by council on an annual basis. Additionally, the town will receive regular reports regarding performance measures, outcomes of audits conducted by outside independent firms, on-demand financial reports, and other measures that will give marketing activities and financials more transparency than there was under MTI. Further, the contract requires that TTB remain an apolitical body, one that does not endorse, nor direct funds to, any political candidate or potential ballot issue. The contract was approved 6-0 (council member Adrienne Christy was not present).

The new agreement was hammered out after numerous meetings with TTB officials Kiera Skinner, Hollie Hannahs, Tom Watkinson and Dan Jansen, and the town’s elected officials and staff. Town Manager Scott Robson commended TTB’s openness to looking at marketing the town in a new way.

“We've been really pleased with TTB’s openness to continue to refine that plan to get towards what council is looking for this year,” Robson said. “We were particularly excited about TTB’s openness to have a council member sit on the board of directors moving forward, which is great. We also came to quick agreement around kind of the public nature of future quarterly board meetings with TTB which is also really fantastic, I think, in this relationship moving forward. I would say just a renewed and refined focus on this, this scope of services being pretty much looking towards Telluride as a sustainable destination in using that filter in terms of the work that TTB does for the town moving forward.”

The aim of the refreshed marketing entity, Skinner explained in the morning’s work session, is to imbue in visitors a sense of stewardship of the area’s natural resources and beauty. Through trail maps and other messaging methods, TTB encourages visitors to recreate responsibly.

“This is really geared toward guest education,” Skinner said. “We created a winter and summer map for our guests and locals to use on hiking and biking trails with town maps as well as parking. This summer's map is updated and it was a collaborative effort between all the municipalities and key organizations and individuals. The TTB was responsible for developing, producing and distributing these maps. We also slipped the maps into all the locally distributed visitor guides … so we can really inform the guests as much as possible.”

Watkinson highlighted the calendar TTB distributes each year and reiterated the tourism group’s desire to focus on education.

“(We’re) educating the visitor that's here because we know that it's impactful,” he said. “We want to make sure that they're doing it right.”

Jansen said that the ongoing data collection that reveals visitor bookings and other traffic metrics may mean, that if numbers indicate a decline, the agreement may need a different approach.

“We kind of tried to peek over the horizon a bit looking at all this data, and we're comfortable with where we are now for the season, but we kind of live season to season,” he said. “If we see some dark clouds we'll come back to and ask but it would have to be mutually agreed.”

Council member Jessie Rae Arguelles recalled the past iteration of the tourism group and that board’s limited communications with town officials and the public.

“We've historically had some issues with our tourism board and getting information in a timely manner,” she said. “So I guess I want to make sure that like we're 100 percent agreeing to the terms and the restriction and all of this, so that we can move forward in a really cohesive relationship. With some of your past employees it was like pulling teeth to get this information out.”

Skinner assured council that TTB was amenable to all the points on the new contract that call out sharing data, information and financials.

“Throughout this process, we've demonstrated transparency and have delivered in a timely manner and we're dedicated to doing so as we move forward,” Skinner said.

Council member Meehan Fee will sit on the TTB board as council liaison.