Eye on Tourism | PostIndependent.com

Eye on Tourism

The Colorado Tourism Office recently hosted the Governor’s Colorado Tourism Conference in Vail on Oct. 17-19. The message given to industry members was that the residents of Colorado need to come together to support tourism. Thus, a new grassroots effort called the Tourism Ambassador Program was announced. The purpose of the Tourism Ambassador Program is to educate every Colorado citizen about the importance of tourism and the benefits conveyed by a strong tourism industry, including the economic impact on state and local tax revenue and jobs.

Tourism is vital to the stability and economic growth of our community. It contributes more than $7 billion each year to our economy and is one of the largest employers in the state ” many employees live and work right here in our community. By supporting tourism, we strengthen our community, while contributing to the wellbeing of our state.

Tourism has a long history here in Colorado. Taxpayers supported tourism funding until 1993, when voters opted to discontinue the state tourism tax. As a result, market share declined by 30 percent, which caused annual tourism spending to decrease by $2.4 billion. This also resulted in an annual loss of approximately $134 million in state and local taxes. In 2000, the Colorado Tourism Office was re-established and, today, the tourism industry is headed in the right direction, but permanent funding is still a top priority. And, reports show that tourism works.

According to the recent “2003 Colorado Travel Year Study,” by research firm Longwoods International, more than 24.9 million overnight visitors stayed in Colorado this year, down just 5 percent compared to 2002. Colorado certainly wasn’t spared from the lingering effects of a national decrease in business travel, which fell by 800,000 visitors in our state (down 13 percent in Colorado versus 6 percent nationally). The group of vacationers visiting friends and relatives was down by 500,000 visitors.

Though we saw fewer visitors, travelers spent more money last year than in 2002. Colorado visitors spent $7.1 billion in 2003, an increase of $100 million over 2002. And, our marketable trips remained strong, declining just 2 percent in 2003 to 10.8 million trips ” still higher than in both 2001 and 2000.

What brings travelers to our beautiful state is on-going, aggressive promotion. The increased promotional spending the industry received in the spring of 2003 accounted for more than $1 billion in incremental visitor spending (a 102 percent increase) over 2002, according to the Longwoods study. The increased spending translates into $65.5 million in additional tax revenues generated from tourism promotion. In other words, if we had not spent the advertising dollars, the industry in Colorado would have faced $1 billion less in visitor expenditures!

Study after study has proven that continued support for tourism promotion pays big dividends for us all. No matter what type of business you may operate ” whether it be the obvious ones or the not-so-obvious ones, such as growing cantaloupe, running a working cattle ranch, operating a small bar and grill in a mountain town or selling gas and snacks from a remote exit on Interstate 25 ” we all have a vested interest in ensuring that families continue to visit Colorado. By permanently supporting tourism, we permanently support our communities and our economy.

Fortunately, getting involved is easy and there is a wealth of support at the state level to help you make a big difference with whatever time you have available.

The Colorado Tourism Office has created an Ambassador Program to help all Colorado communities better understand the power of the tourism industry.

Ambassadors are needed from each of the state’s 64 counties to help deliver the message that tourism pays for each and every Colorado citizen. Ambassadors are provided with facts, research data, prepared materials, training and one-on-one technical assistance to make telling the tourism story quick, easy and effective. There is a role for everyone, from adding your name to a list of supporters, dropping a ready-to-print article in your newsletter, or participating in the development of a community action plan.

The research is in: Tourism works. And it touches the lives of every Colorado citizen. A significant investment in tourism promotion reaps huge dividends for the state and our local community. It’s worth the effort. It’s worth our support. If you’d like to become a Colorado Tourism Ambassador, please look for information online at http://www.colorado.com/ ambassador.asp or contact the CTO at 303-892-3885.

Lori Hogan is the Tourism Marketing Director for the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association. She can be contacted at 945-6589 or e-mail lori@glenwoodchamber.com.

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