The world is coming to visit Glenwood Springs | PostIndependent.com

The world is coming to visit Glenwood Springs

Katie Hankinson
Post Independent Intern

Glenwood Springs, seeing an increase in international tourists coming to the area year-round, may have to adopt a more global mindset to ensure everyone visiting is comfortable and happy, tourism leaders say.

Glenwood's tourism market is traditionally made up of people who live in Colorado. But that's changing.

"The domestic market is very strong, and now other states are as well, but the international groups are coming on very strong, and we need to keep up," Lisa Langer said. Langer, who is vice president of tourism marketing at the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association, has watched as more international tourists learn about Glenwood Springs as a vacation spot.

"Being between Aspen and Vail, Glenwood is a good hub, or base camp, to 'spoke off' to see other parts of Colorado," Langer said. "What most tourists are realizing is that we have a lot to offer here, and they can enjoy themselves here just as much as other prime tourist destinations. The attractions available here aren't available anywhere else, and these are the things that make us a unique and ideal place to vacation. We do our best to make sure that their time here is memorable, and hope they will tell their friends and family about us, and return later on."

One of the ways Glenwood Springs attracts international tourism is through familiarization, or "fam," tours.

"Fam tours are how to get more international traffic," Langer explained. "Tour operators who are selling are going to sell what they know, so we show them what we know and what we have to offer. If you don't get them here, no one is selling it. Working with the Colorado Tourism Office, or CTO, we have gotten a large number of fams, which has produced a lot of interest in Glenwood, and putting us on tours by tour operators, hotels, etcetera."

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Social media has been a strong tool in attracting visitors from around the globe to Glenwood, not only for tourism, but also to create business connections with companies around the world.

"Since social media has really taken off, it's now much easier to reach people all around the world with a story, a photo or a video," Mandy Gauldin explained. Gauldin is the owner of Peak Communications, a public relations firm with clients like the Glenwood Caverns and Iron Mountain Hot Springs. "We have a very robust social media program and have had a lot of success getting our message out globally that way…

"Because we don't have an international marketing budget, we rely heavily on our partners at the CTO, and the Glenwood Springs tourism board for support. I send our press releases out to the CTO international team's representatives, who share it with media and tour operators in their countries."

Operators of attractions in Glenwood work to ensure that all guests feel welcome.

"Local offices are good about organizing fam tours with international offices, to set up group and individual tours, to bring those groups into Colorado. They ask if we would like to host them and show them what Colorado is all about it," Jeremy Gilley, director of sales and revenue at the Hot Springs Pool, said. "We comp rooms for them, or take them out to dinner. It's hard for a small property to put money into international tourism, but it is important to grow in this market so we create and build those connections."

Once the visitors are here, Glenwood attraction operators must think more about what will make a guest feel at home.

"Because we're selling more international travel, lodging properties and attractions especially need to start thinking more globally," Langer said. "I took a Japanese woman to the Iron Mountain Hot Springs to tour, because she was from a company in Tokyo that works with the CTO. I think they have done a beautiful job, except I noticed the thermostats are all in Fahrenheit, and I thought, 'Perhaps we also need to list the temperature in Celsius.' It's just these little things businesses can do to help our guests feel welcome."

Another change Langer mentioned is breaking down language barriers.

"In the last month, I get two, three calls per week in Spanish, and we need to find ways to communicate the basics," Langer said. "How much is this, what are the packages available, what is good for kids? Lodges and attractions need to be prepared for that. Of course they can't have every language, I get it. But we need people who speak the languages of the people who visit here the most so we remove that tension, and those guests feel better about speaking to someone who is sure to help."

One mother visiting Glenwood from France with her husband and two young children, said, "We love it here for the beauty and the outdoors and adventure. I want my children to grow up learning about different parts of the world, and experience all these wonderful things. Is it tricky speaking with someone who cannot understand you? Of course. It can be frustrating. But since it is becoming so easy to travel, I am sure all countries will do their best in making everyone who visits feel included and welcome in their culture and surroundings."

People from different countries often come here in search of a specific attraction.

"Each country has their own different thing that attracts them to Glenwood," Langer said. "We've noticed tourists from Germany love the West, and learning about Doc Holliday and horseback riding. Japan and China love coming to the hot springs, for an intimate and luxurious setting. French tourists enjoy bike rides and spa.

"All of these markets are increasing, and although we don't have a set way to measure customer satisfaction and assume everyone from this country will like this thing, we can still make personal connections to understand what it is that brought them here and what we can do to make this an ultimate vacation destination for everyone worldwide."