Tourism reheats with 4th of July weekend | PostIndependent.com
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Tourism reheats with 4th of July weekend

Lynn Burton
Staff Writer

The Fourth of July weekend helped Glenwood’s tourism industry bounce back after wildfires chased away visitors in June, but businesses are uncertain how the rest of the month will unfold.

“Today and the next two days will tell the tale,” said Steve Beckley, owner of the Glenwood Caverns. “Will (visitors) be here seven days a week?”

Lori Hogan, the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association’s marketing director, said nine of the 14 lodges served by the chamber’s central reservations system were full over the weekend.

But indications from a recent marketing committee meeting point toward a soft July, Hogan said.

“We’re on a slow rebound before getting back to the way we were,” said Hot Springs Pool general manager Kjell Mitchell.

Tourism took a dive after June 8, when the Coal Seam Fire forced a two-day evacuation of motels, hotels and residences from West Glenwood Springs to the Hotel Colorado in the north part of town.

Images of a popular Colorado resort threatened by vicious flames on three sides were broadcast around the country, along with such headlines as “4,000 Glenwood Springs residents evacuated.”

The Hot Springs Pool was closed for two days during the evacuation, and smoke turned blue skies to brown for the following days.

Just as Glenwood’s skies were clearing somewhat, the Spring Creek Fire north of New Castle erupted on June 25, sending more smoke Glenwood’s direction. The fires also sent more bad publicity in the direction of Glenwood Springs, publicity which some local businesses are still having to cope with.

“We get a dozen calls a day from people wanting to know about the smoke,” said Jeff Neer, who rents bikes and runs a shuttle service at Canyon Bikes.

Neer said his business has improved since June, but is still down 30 to 35 percent this month compared to the same period last July. “That’s a hit,” Neer said.

Rafting companies expected summer business to drop following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the worst drought in 50 years.

Kevin Schnieder, owner of Rock Gardens Rafting and Campgrounds, said his rafting numbers were down substantially after the Coal Seam Fire, but started to come back 10 days later, then continued to increase.

For the entire month of June, rafting business was down 20 to 25 percent, he said.

Schnieder’s Fourth of July weekend was busy, and he expects business for the rest of the month to be “steady, but off a little.”

Despite the rafting downturn, Schnieder said, “We’re fortunate. There are some places without water at all.” Rivers in other parts of the state will not be getting water releases from reservoirs that usually extend the season for rafting companies.

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“We are in one of the better drainages,” Schnieder said. “If anyone will have water, we’ll have it.”

While Schnieder uses the Colorado River for his float trips, Neer at Canyon Bikes uses the trail that runs along the river through Glenwood Canyon. His 130 bikes are for all ages and abilities, and include tandem bikes and mountain bikes. He has a walk-in business, but most visitors reserve their bikes before hand.

“Bookings are down,” Neer said.

Neer’s shuttle service takes bikers out to Dotsero so they can pedal the entire canyon. “Usually our shuttles are packed, but not this year,” Neer said.

At Glenwood Caverns, Beckley said business was down 15 percent this June compared to last June. He said on a typical summer day in previous years, 350 to 400 people day visited the caverns. “Now it’s in the mid-300s. Before the Fourth of July it was in the mid-200s,” Beckley said.

At the Hot Springs Pool, Glenwood’s most popular tourist attraction, business has been off 7 percent for the first seven days of July compared to last year, said Mitchell.

Reservations are also down at the historic Hotel Colorado, north of the Hot Springs Pool. A spokesperson, who declined to give his name, said the hotel is taking a bigger hit during the week than on weekends.

“We’re usually 100 percent full on weekends in July, but now we’re at 95 percent,” he said. For week days, the hotel is usually 65 percent full in July, but is down to 45 to 50 percent so far this month.

To boost reservations, the hotel will offer weekday discounts on its Internet site.

Much of Glenwood’s summer business comes from Colorado’s Front Range, and the chamber spends much of its advertising budget to encourage those residents to extend their stay past the weekend.

Despite a disappointing summer tourist season, the chamber doesn’t plan to increase Front Range advertising to attract those visitors.

Hogan said the chamber spends its advertising dollars in the spring, fall and winter. “All of our money has been spent,” Hogan said.


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