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Fire singes tourism

Carrie ClickStaff Writer

A skittish economy, the continued aftermath of Sept. 11, the drought, hotter-than-normal temperatures, fires and floods. Whew. It’s been a challenging summer for Glenwood Springs’ tourism economy. Still, according to Lori Hogan, director of tourism marketing for Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association, numbers for town attractions and lodges have managed to stay relatively consistent amidst a maze of challenges. As far as lodging goes, those numbers are based on a 2.5 percent tax that is included in all lodging billed in Glenwood Springs. Final numbers aren’t available yet for July and August, but June’s numbers reflect a decrease in revenue.”We had a drop of 13.8 percent in June,” said Hogan. “In the grand scheme of things, that figure’s not as bad as it could be.”Other tourist destinations have reported far larger drops, Hogan said. She attended a conference in Utah earlier this summer, where national park representatives reported significant hits. “They were reporting 20 to 40 percent drops in attendance,” she said. “Mesa Verde was 35 percent below normal.”It’s been a tough summer after a very strong winter and spring.”We had a really good March,” Hogan said. “We were up 3.2 percent.” She said April was up 10.46 percent and May was 11.06 percent above the same time last year. “That would have continued, too, if it hadn’t been for the fire,” said Hogan, of the Coal Seam Fire, which began on June 8 and destroyed 29 homes near Glenwood. The Hayman Fire near Denver didn’t help matters either. Hogan said potential Front Range tourists stayed away from Glenwood Springs, since they didn’t want to inhale even more smoke.”A lot of people on the Front Range associated the smoke they experienced from the Hayman Fire with the Coal Seam Fire,” Hogan said. “We tried to battle that perception but it did hurt us.”Susi Larson of Whitewater Rafting in Glenwood Springs also felt that negative publicity affected her business.”We were down somewhat,” she said. “We haven’t run the numbers yet, but we’ll probably be down about 20 percent or so. Because of the drought and the fires, people thought there was no water and no rafting. They didn’t distinguish that different rivers in Colorado were at different levels. That hurt us.”Steve Beckley of the Glenwood Caverns and Historic Fairy Caves said he was having a phenomenal May, with a 38 percent increase in attendance at the caves, but since then, the company has experienced a bit of a downturn in attendance. “Summer’s not over yet!” he laughed. “But my estimates are that we’ll be about 10 percent down. It’s certainly not as bad as it could have been.”Kjell Mitchell, manager of the Hot Springs Lodge and Pool, duplicated Beckley’s estimates.”We’ll be down 10 percent for July and August,” said Mitchell. June was a bit worse, he said, with a decrease of 20 percent – a result of the Coal Seam Fire.Hogan said occupancy numbers gathered in Glenwood Springs by the Colorado Hotel and Lodging Association reflected only a 1.19 percent decrease in June, but those numbers are deceiving.”Glenwood’s hotels were full of evacuees,” Hogan said of the hundreds of residents who had to evacuate their houses during the Coal Seam Fire, “so that number isn’t entirely accurate” as a tourism measure.Hogan is optimistic about the lodging tax numbers due for July and August.”I’m hopeful those numbers will even the summer out a bit,” she said. “We just don’t have those numbers yet.” Hogan is also looking forward to this fall and winter. “We’re kicking off a new print and radio ad campaign called `Make Some History of Your Own,'” she said. The campaign – geared to the Front Range – will feature the history of Glenwood Springs and will invite participants to compete for free weekend getaways. In addition, Hogan is looking forward to the joint ski-and-swim promotion between Sunlight Mountain Resort and the Hot Springs Lodge & Pool. “That has been always been very successful for us,” she said.


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