The Joint Budget committee recently recommended an 87% cut in the Colorado Tourism Office’s budget, and the reactions have been loud.

As both a Colorado native, and the CEO of a ski company that does most of our business here in Colorado, I understand the importance of tourism (and have a lot on the line if that industry suffers).

Tourism is a major economic driver for the state, and the fear is that if we lose the budget, we’ll lose the revenue that comes from visiting tourists, therefore causing economic strain, especially in mountain communities.

Annelise Loevlie, CEO of Icelantic Skis

It’s a valid fear, and I’m pretty sure none of us want to see or cause suffering. A glaring question for me in all of this though, is: Is visitor spending the only metric we use to measure the health of a community, a state? 

And if so, is a reduced budget actually an opportunity to question the norm, and ask the deeper, harder questions about what our state and our people really need?

 I haven’t navigated a ship, (much less a state, or a country), out of a global pandemic before, but in my experience, times of contraction, like we’re in now, necessitate a thorough audit of all business activities and their relevancy and effectiveness. We are creatures of habit, and the easy thing is to do what we’ve always done. But this isn’t necessarily the best thing. 

READ: Colorado Sun opinion columnists.

Budget cuts are a given right now, and like the apple tree outside my kitchen window whose blossoms got zapped by the freeze a few weeks ago, we rebuild what we can with what we’ve got. And we get creative. 

What if, instead of lamenting the loss of millions of dollars and tourists (that latter which is not guaranteed, and is simply a fear for now), we instead focus on what we do have, and invest in our home, our people?

MORE: Colorado could stop tourism marketing as budget writers look to slash $3 billion in spending

One of our biggest assets as a state is our natural environment. We know that time spent in nature has immeasurable positive effects on mental, physical, spiritual and emotional health, and I’m guessing more people are realizing the benefits of this “free medicine” now more than ever.

Throughout the lockdown, we’ve seen an exponential increase in the use of public, outdoor spaces as people flock to the solace of nature to soothe the discomfort of the unknown. 

Nature doesn’t charge for her offerings, but usage takes its toll. 

If the “new normal” involves less travel and more at-home exploration, let’s embrace that. How can we use the funds that remain, to support the local industries, people and places that provide infinite and immeasurable returns for minimal investment? 

If the ultimate goal of leadership is to navigate people to health and well being, then investing in our land and in the outdoor recreation industry is a smart decision that will deliver benefits beyond the extent of a yearlong marketing campaign.  

If you’ve ever been to therapy, you know that the problem (and solution!) rarely comes from outside. 

Invest in what we have, in the health of the local land and people, and the rest will follow.  

Annelise Loevlie is co-founder and C.E.O. of Icelantic and sits on the advisory council for Colorado’s Outdoor Recreation Industry office. She is passionate about building conscious communities and businesses.