Tradition and technology drive Glenwood Springs tourism
As a part of the team at the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association, I had a small part in executing the annual fete that we call Strawberry Days – our beloved town festival that amazingly comes together each year for three days of unabashed celebration for its estimated 60,000-person constituency. Somehow, it seemed better to me this time than ever before – now in its 110th year.Admittedly, until this year I was a satisfied visitor and not a full-on participant. This time, wholly a part of the groundswell, I was at the Chamber offices on Friday morning when energetic Rotarians showed up to load equipment into a van loaned from a local real estate office – which the club did with gusto. And as with all events, the planning and organization was some huge proportional relationship to the seeming ease with which it unfolded to the casual observer. My hat is off to my talented associate and vice president of special events, Krista Kaufman.
Maybe this pride and passion is the reason why decade after decade, Glenwood Springs holds an enduring charm that is reflected in this year’s growth of tourism revenue. In the first four months of 2007, compared to the same period in 2006, we’re trending a 26 percent increase in lodging revenues, according to the city of Glenwood Springs Finance Department. This is occurring despite estimated 25-33 percent long-term occupancy by construction and oil and gas lodgers in our 1,500 available rooms in Glenwood Springs. It’s an interesting micro-study of supply and demand: We are driving demand with our advertising and promotion, and with an increasingly tight supply, room rates are rising and our attractions are selling – arguably better than ever. Nationally, the travel and tourism industry is on track for a record year, gas prices notwithstanding.In 2007, we’re able to advertise, promote, track and convert (a fancy marketing term for turning prospects into sales) our potential business more effectively, thanks to Central Reservations Glenwood Springs, which launched on June 1. More than half our lodging rooms are represented in this “one stop shopping” portal for our guests, and we have about 10 activities companies, which include rafting, lift tickets and ski rentals, horseback rides, Segway tours, bike rentals, caverns adventures and more. We can now book air into Eagle County Regional Airport and Aspen Airport in the system, and I assert that with all of this, Glenwood Springs is emerging as a true destination vacation, more than simply a Front Range weekend getaway or a handy stop to tired travelers on I-70.
Central Reservations tracks fascinating data, which, over time, will make the job of promoting and selling Glenwood Springs more efficient, enabling us to fill available lodging inventory in the October through May time frame where growth is needed. Although Glenwood is no stranger to central reservations, having been at the cutting edge of tourism promotion in the 1980s and ’90s, one enormous difference between then and now is the fact that the Internet didn’t exist (or was in its infancy), and our network was limited to what we could do by telephone. Now the story is very different.Initial data from Central Reservations tells us that 8 percent of our clientele is international, and 92 percent is domestic. This month two-thirds of our bookings are from Colorado residents and one-third are from elsewhere. Half book online at visitglenwood.com, and half call our Central Reservations center at 1-888-4GLENWOOD. A majority is staying for two to three nights, but there is a growing segment staying four or five nights.
As time goes on, we’ll target customers with more precision, fill in our shoulder and winter seasons strategically, and bring back our loyal guests more often and for longer stays. The future looks bright, thanks to current data-driven capabilities and increased marketing sophistication, but let’s not forget that our tourism core is built on a longstanding reputation of community pride, quality and hospitality – the kind you find in abundance at Strawberry Days.Kate Collins is vice president of tourism marketing for the Glenwood Springs Tourism Board and the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association.
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