If you were anywhere near campus or downtown over the weekend, you no doubt saw a lot of Deadheads in their signature tie-dye shirts and sandals. You may have been one of them who joined 40,000-plus of your closest friends at Dead & Company’s annual July reunion at Folsom Field.

Sean MaherFor the Camera

Many of those who traveled here over the weekend started following the Dead around the country 30, 40 or even 50 years ago. But on this trip, they were not sleeping on the grass or in their vans. Rooms at the St. Julien were sold out, as was the hotel’s Cosmic Charlie brunch on Saturday morning at $50 per person.

Visiting Deadheads spent a lot of money over the weekend at hotels, restaurants, shops and, of course, at our local dispensaries. Almost every dollar spent was taxable, which means that all of us who live in Boulder benefited from our tie-dye-clad visitors and we should be glad they were here.

Overall last year, visitors to Boulder spent roughly $500 million, which added $24 million to the city’s general fund. This money pays for open space, parks, libraries and critical services, such as police and fire protection. Most of these amenities are never used by tourists but they help fund them every time they open their wallets in Boulder.

And, thankfully, tourists open their wallets a lot more than we locals do. According to survey research done last summer in downtown, visitors from outside Colorado spend an average of $82 on a visit to Pearl Street. Boulder residents, on the other hand, spend a total of $33 per visit downtown.

That translates into tourism having a huge impact for local businesses. Another survey done last summer was aimed at small business owners. Almost 70% of restaurateurs said they would be out of business if they lost their customers from out of town. Among retailers, 44% said their business would likely fail without tourist revenues. Across both types of businesses, 60% of owners said tourism is far more important to their success now than it was five years ago.

And this makes perfect sense. As the number of restaurants and retailers continues to grow around Boulder and the region, locals have far more options from which to choose. As a result, there is always a new place to check out and we hit our old favorites less and less often.

Let’s look at a quick example. I’m old enough to remember when the Walnut Brewery was the only brewpub in Boulder County. It’s gone now, but today there are more than 40 breweries and brewpubs from Nederland to Boulder to Erie and all points in between. That is great news for craft beer lovers but there simply are not enough of us living here to support all those small businesses.

That’s where visitors make a huge difference. They come for a few weeks, a few days or a few hours and then they’re gone. Thankfully they leave some of their money behind to sustain better dining and shopping for all of us, along with millions in tax revenues to fund amenities we all use and enjoy.

So next year around this time when you get stuck waiting for a table because a bunch of Deadheads are in front of you, don’t get frustrated. Give them a big hug and say thanks for choosing Boulder. Without them and all of the other visitors who come here, there’s a good chance the restaurant would not be in business and our community would not be the amazing place it is.

Sean Maher is the CEO of RRC Associates. Views expressed in this column are his own and do not reflect the position of RRC or any other organization. He can be reached at sean@rrcassociates.com.

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