Tourism office works to see Colorado visitors ‘come to life’
Tourism is more than good times; in a state like Colorado, it’s a primary driver of economic development. The state saw 77.7 million visitors in 2015. The industry generated $1.13 billion in state and local taxes that year. Nearly one in nine Colorado jobs are related to tourism and hospitality.
That’s why Colorado Tourism Office spent National Tourism and Travel Week, May 7-13, traveling the state to share its new statewide strategic initiative. The group stopped in Glenwood Springs on Friday.
A promotional video reiterated the effort’s value: “Colorado and tourism go hand in hand,” it began. “Visitors come for our unlimited vistas, cultural gems, and all that sunshine mixed with deep snow.”
The initiative, “Colorado Come to Life,” targets not only national and international visitors, but also Coloradans themselves. Coloradans account for 30 percent of overnight and 66 percent of day trips, according to the office. CTO aims not to increase the number of state visitors, but to maximize the economic impact of existing guests while minimizing environmental impact.
“We’re putting our focus on generating the greatest financial impact possible from existing visitors,” said Ritter, who noted visitor spending has grown at nearly twice the national average. “Every corner has the opportunity to benefit from travel spending.”
The campaign is guided by four pillars:
• Compete: Strengthen Colorado’s competitive position and the resilience of its tourism industry.
• Create: Increase visitation through creation and branding of new traveler experiences.
• Steward: Protect the integrity of Colorado resources through sustainable tourism.
• Advocate: Communicate the power of tourism to drive economic and lifestyle benefits.
Drawing in-state visitors to less-frequented spots is one aspect of stewardship, said CTO Director Cathy Ritter. For example, Glenwood’s Hanging Lake is a must-see spot for many visitors. But the trail often sees more traffic than it can reasonably sustain. CTO’s plan will work to draw attention to less-trafficked areas, thereby preserving natural resources while spreading financial benefit to all corners of the state.
The website’s itinerary builder will help with that, said CTO Director of U.S. Marketing Amber King, and material throughout the site will help educate visitors about sustainability. The website also highlights volunteer opportunities throughout Colorado. CTO’s social media further extends that message; for example, the account managers might respond to a Hanging Lake post with, “Great photo. Don’t walk on the log!”
The plan includes both visitor-facing and industry-facing aspects. Tourists can visit colorado.com for a wealth of information about the state, including tools to plan a customized itinerary. They may also stop at any of the state’s welcome centers for in-person guidance from one of the office’s volunteers.
Businesses that wish to attract tourists can participate in several CTO co-op programs, which provide marketing resources at a smaller cost than what an organization would pay on its own. Those include brand-share opportunities, leadership programs and matching grant programs. Tourism partners also run the office’s Instagram account, @visitcolorado, with a different partner highlighting its destination each week.
“It’s about coming together and understanding what you have in the community and how to connect the dots,” said Jill Lammer, CTO’s director of heritage and agritourism.
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