Tourism needs addressed at Glenwood session
Destination ski resorts like Snowmass and Aspen could boost their off-season visits by cross-promoting “Western road trip” opportunities alongside some of the state’s off-the-beaten-path locales such as Rifle and Meeker.
Likewise, year-round destinations such as Glenwood Springs that tend to attract most of their visitors from the Front Range could benefit from better in-state tourism promotions.
Those were some of the ideas that emerged from a state tourism strategic planning session Wednesday in Glenwood hosted by the Colorado Tourism Office.
The CTO is in the process of developing a “strategic roadmap” that seeks to better coordinate promotion efforts to maximize Colorado’s tourism potential.
A key part of the process is to prepare an updated “state of the industry” report to be developed based on feedback over the next eight months and presented at the next Governor’s Tourism Conference.
“To have the greatest amount of success, it’s important that the industry has a sense of ownership over the plan,” said Dave Radcliffe, a tourism consultant based in Spokane, Washington, who is working to develop the plan.
Radcliffe is working with lead consultant Mitch Nichols of Nichols Tourism Group, also based in Washington state, and the National Laboratory of Tourism and e-Commerce to prepare the plan.
Together with CTO Director Cathy Ritter, they are in the midst of an eight-stop swing across the state seeking input from various tourism interests.
The group was in Silverthorne Wednesday afternoon and was to be in Greeley and Denver today and Friday. Additional sessions will be held in Telluride and Alamosa later this month.
The Wednesday morning session in Glenwood Springs was attended by about 30 representatives of tourism businesses and organizations from a wide area stretching from Aspen to Rio Blanco County.
Participants were asked to share ideas about who their target customers are, and how best to develop and deliver different products to visitors.
One obstacle for Glenwood Springs and the Western Slope in general is traffic, construction-related delays and occasional closures on Interstate 70, said Trent Blizzard, who sits on the Glenwood Springs Tourism Promotion Board.
“I-70 being major travel artery through the state, we are concerned that it is a major weakness when we have bottleneck situations,” Blizzard said. “We would like to see the state address that as a real threat to tourism on this side of the state.”
The potential for marijuana tourism, “whether you’re pro or con,” is something that should be addressed in the new strategic plan, Blizzard also said, relating another topic that came up at his table during the discussion.
Indeed, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent reported Wednesday that marijuana has turned into a $6 million business for the city.
“The way we’ve dealt with it is to not deal with it,” he said. “Let’s not stick our head in the sand … marijuana is here to stay, and we’d like to see a well thought-out, mature policy on how to handle it, and not be scared to talk about it.”
RIFLE FALLS OPTION
Don Chaney, who is director of the Ute Theater in Rifle, said the “more remote” parts of the state have challenges, but could benefit with some coordinated promotional efforts.
That means “looking beyond the obvious” in promoting the state’s attractions, he said. Instead of overpromoting places like Hanging Lake that are “being loved to death,” Chaney suggested offering up Rifle Falls as an alternative destination when the Hanging Lake trail is likely to be overcrowded.
Places like Rio Blanco County that are off the I-70 corridor are a bit of a “fish out of water” when it comes to tourism promotion, said Meeker resident Joe Livingston, who is working on ways to attract more musical entertainment to Garfield County’s neighbor to the north.
Meeker and Rangely have been largely dependent on energy development in the past, but that’s changing, Livingston said. Public lands, cultural and historical attractions hold a lot of potential for bringing more visitors to the area, he said.
Carbondale Chamber Director Andrea Stewart said the new state plan should emphasize the arts, history and things like craft brewing, which are key selling points for Carbondale.
“We also need to develop more gathering spaces for conventions,” she said, echoing a desire expressed by Glenwood Springs officials as well.
Mike Pritchard, who directs the Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association, said area communities would do well to enhance soft trails and trail networks.
“There’s also a need for a concierge, because people don’t know how to find some of these places,” Pritchard said. “That way there is someone to advise people where to go and what to do.”
The need for better broadband capabilities in the more remote parts of the state was also touched on as a way to get the message out about what local communities have to offer.
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