Hindsight is always 20-20, and that’s even more true when you’re making annual forecasts.
The COVID-19 pandemic had just become an issue internationally when John Wells, broker-owner of the Wells Group, said his office began researching and preparing data for The Wells Group 2020 Annual Forecast, which was delivered March 12, just as the pandemic was reaching the United States.
The Durango Herald reported on the forecast 10 days later, but a lot changed during those 10 days.
The forecast ranked the coronavirus 10th among factors that could affect the La Plata County real estate market. Although, Wells noted during the Annual Forecast he had offered a caveat that the outbreak was in its early stages and it might move rapidly up among factors influencing the real estate market – which is exactly what happened.
“We collect the data in January and February, and we actually finish the forecast 2½ weeks before it’s delivered. Then the article about the forecast wasn’t printed until 10 days after the forecast. A lot changed in that time. I certainly would have moved the impact from the coronavirus up from 10th,” Wells said.
Given the massive slowdown in commerce caused by measures taken across the world, the country, the state and right here in La Plata County, Wells said, it’s now more than obvious that economic consequences from job losses, closed businesses and lack of travel will cause problems throughout the economy, including the real estate market.
The impact of COVID-19 in Durango spotlights the region’s need to diversify its economy away from tourism, Wells said.
“Nationally, tourism is 1% of (gross domestic product). In Durango, it’s 20%. It’s why we need business parks to attract light industry. We need to diversify our economy. Can you imagine if tourism was 5% of our economy right now? Would we be in a better position? Yes, we’d still be hit by the virus, but people could work from home. It wouldn’t be as devastating as what we’re now facing,” he said.
Wells said he remains confident that the tourism industry in Durango, La Plata County and Southwest Colorado is better poised to recover from COVID-19, but he added he’s unsure how long that will take.
“People certainly won’t be traveling for the next month, and who knows how long it will be until we return to a point when we can travel safely, but when we do get to that point, I think we’re going to be in a good position,” Wells said.
He remained convinced that Southwest Colorado, with it’s abundance of outdoor opportunities, clear air and low-population density, will be a popular attraction to tourists compared with New York, Los Angeles or other urban tourist destinations now more hard hit by COVID-19.