Any area that includes the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park and the only spot where four U.S. states touch ought to be marketed like a giant theme park for tourists, a Denver-based planner says.
"There's no reason why 132,000 square miles can't be marketed just like Disneyland," Philip Burgess, president of the Center for the New West, said of the Colorado Plateau, which takes in parts of Arizona, Colorado, Utah and New Mexico.The Grand Canyon ranks near the top of the list of tourist attractions for visitors from Japan, Germany and most other affluent nations, he said.
But the plateau also includes eight other national parks, two national recreational areas, five national landmarks, nine national monuments, 18 national forests and 26 national wilderness areas, Burgess said.
"The problem is we need multi-jurisdictional planning or we'll destroy it by piecemeal development, which is what's happening right now," he said.
Burgess, whose center tracks trends and seeks to identify economic-development strategies, suggests that tourism will be one of the three main drivers of new economic activity in the West during the 1990s.
The others are transportation and telecommunications.
Increased tourism in the eastern United States often translates into little more than new jobs flipping hamburgers and making hotel beds, but it's a different story in the West, Burgess said.
Any tourism growth in the West means the need for an improved infrastructure to move people around and house them, he said last week during a conference in Denver on the economic and demographic forces shaping the region.
Building highways, bikeways, hotels and airports takes skilled work and creates high-paying jobs, Burgess said.
Denver's new international airport, now under construction, and the expansion of airports in Salt Lake City and Phoenix "are absolutely key to things that are going to happen," he said.