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Front Range supports Glenwood Springs tourism through tough economic times

Pete Fowler
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” The Front Range has sustained Glenwood Springs tourism through national uncertainty over the economy and rising fuel prices, said Kate Collins, vice president of tourism and marketing for the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association.

The Front Range continues to provide the main source of tourism business with around 85 percent of Glenwood’s tourists visiting from the other side of the Rocky Mountains, she said.

“That has proven to be sustaining once again for Glenwood Springs in the face of this uncertain economy and rising fuel prices,” Collins said. “We haven’t had a tremendous dip in visitation in 2008. Our tourism economy remains strong in the face of an uncertain economy.”



Collins spoke to the City Council Thursday while presenting highlights of the chamber’s $665,006 budget for 2009 and its marketing plan. The budget figure originates from the city’s finance department and is based on projected accommodations tax revenues and other factors. Mayor Bruce Christensen said the budget looks good and he would support approving it as financial planning moves forward.

Collins said occupancy rates for the first seven months of 2008 are down 2.2 percent over the previous year. But the average daily rate is up $8.10 so far over last year at $107 per night to stay in Glenwood Springs. And accommodation tax revenues have grown 1.9 percent over 2007 for the same period.



“It’s not looking like the last two years where we had 20 percent growth in tourism,” she said. “But I don’t think any of us expected that pace of growth to continue and I think we can all feel reassured and happy that in this environment we’re maintaining versus declining.”

In an interview after the presentation, Collins said tourism destinations that rely on air travel have faced even more uncertainty.

Some city councilors said Collins has been doing a great job with marketing. But they said they’d like to speak to the Tourism Board about using tourism promotion funds for certain things downtown such as Christmas lights, beautification and clean-up.

The chamber and Tourism Board administer the tourism promotion fund, which is 80 percent of a 2.5 percent accommodations tax on short-term lodging. Councilor Kris Chadwick, who is on the Tourism Board, said the city decided two years ago to take the remaining 20 percent of the accommodations tax revenues and give it to a Financial Advisory Board to distribute grants for infrastructure, capital improvements and events.

“The overarching idea is, ‘Well, there’s the 20 percent that could fund the Christmas lights and some of these other things,'” Chadwick said.

Collins said after the presentation that benefits of spending on tourism marketing may seem intangible, but especially in difficult economic times the city must maintain a strong marketing presence in the minds of its tourism customers. She said that Colorado dropped from about third to 19th in the U.S. when it cut large amounts of tourism funding years ago.

Tourism has had an economic impact of about $160 million for Glenwood Springs in 2007 based on accommodations taxes and tourism-related retail activity, Collins said. The figure relies on the assumption that a third of all retail sales are generated by tourism. Collins said the city determined that ratio in a 2002 study. A budget of $725,000 last year is a good investment for a return of $160 million economic impact to the city, Collins said.

During her presentation to the City Council, Collins said a central reservations website and calling center did about $404,000 new business for Glenwood Springs after being online for one year as of June.

“We had $36 million in lodging revenue sales in 2007 so we do kind of look at this $400,000, possibly $1 million in this next year with our central reservations as some incremental growth for that business,” she said.

She said the new whitewater park and Rio Grande Trail have brought lots of attention to the city.

Glenwood Springs has appeared in Field and Stream Magazine as the number one fishing town in the U.S. It appeared in a “Workingman’s Spa” story in the New York Times, which also did a segment on the Rio Grande Trail. National Geographic Traveler, National Geographic Adventure, Conde Nast Traveler, USA Today and the Today Show also gave Glenwood some exposure, Collins said.

“The list goes on and on,” she said. “We’ve had about 500 articles and placements due to our public relations efforts.”

Contact Pete Fowler: 384-9121

pfowler@postindependent.com


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