Colorado Tourism has Much to Celebrate
As 2017 draws to a close, it’s clear that Colorado tourism has much to celebrate this holiday season. To be sure, some destinations have been celebrating all year. Estes Park marked its 100th birthday, while Ski Cooper celebrated its 75th year and Snowmass its 50th of creating thrills for skiers and snowboarders. National Geographic Traveler celebrated our state’s joyful mindset, with Boulder taking honors as the happiest city in U.S. and Fort Collins coming in 4th and Colorado Springs in 18th.
In these and so many ways, 2017 was a banner year for our state, with such a multitude of stellar moments that it seems fitting to capture them in one of those year-end lists. Based on input from the whole Colorado Tourism Office team, the Top 10 Colorado Tourism Industry Accomplishments for 2017 are as follows:
10. The new Colorado Historic Hot Springs Loop was a media sensation, racking up more than 150 placements with a paid value more than $6.3 million in top pubs from USA Today to the Washington Post. It even scored a cover call-out on National Geographic Traveler and earned the CTO PR team two Gold Pick Awards — one for Best Campaign and one for Best Campaign Component — from the Public Relations Society of America/Colorado Chapter. Not bad for $4,000 in hard costs.
9. Grand Junction took a star turn as host of the 2017 Colorado Governor’s Tourism Conference, which won a strong thumbs up from more than 95 percent of post-conference survey-takers for everything from the speaker lineup —especially travel author Rick Steves — to the food. Planning already is under way for an equally worthy showing in Vail Oct. 29–31.
8. GovCon also was where the inaugural class of the Colorado Tourism Leadership Journey took the stage to begin its yearlong experience. This new executive training program aimed at building the tourism industry’s bench strength attracted participants representing a range of sectors —from the National Park Service, Expedia and YMCA of the Rockies to beer, casino, ski, hotel and destination marketing organizations. The class’ next experiential learning opportunities will take them to Colorado Springs, Salida/Buena Vista, and Denver prior to their graduation and induction of the Class of 2019 in Vail.
7. Denver International Airport was on a tear, scoring one new nonstop international flight after another. Norwegian Airlines launched its inaugural to London’s Gatwick airport in September and will debut DEN’s first nonstop service to Paris in April. With United Airlines’ launch of a new nonstop to Heathrow in March, DEN passengers will have a choice of three direct London flights. To add to the fun, Edelweiss Air will add a direct connection from Zurich to DEN in early June, and COPA Airlines this month will be connecting DEN nonstop to its Panama City hub, serving its extensive South American network. Mountain bikers and oil and gas guys alike will rejoice over a new nonstop to Calgary in January. All just in time for Denver’s turn to host the U.S. Travel Association’s annual international trade show, IPW, next May.
6. Rural tourism got a boost when the CTO’s beloved Heritage and Agritourism (HAG) Program transitioned July 1 to the new Destination Development initiative. Selection of a new vendor partner to develop a series of trainings, workshops and toolkits — along with creation of the new Colorado Field Guide’s online itineraries guiding travelers to less-traveled destinations and periods — combine to focus attention on creating new reasons and ways to explore Colorado.
5. Starting this week, viewers in 22 countries will be getting a look at Colorado’s elevated food scene as cable’s top-rated food show, Top Chef, dedicates a full season to Colorado. Against tough competition, CTO landed the season with support from the Colorado Office of Film, Television and Media, as well as Sage Hospitality and the four featured destinations: Denver, Telluride, Boulder and Aspen. Adding further luster to Colorado’s culinary rep, Slow Food Nations made Denver the center of the good, clean, fair food universe, selecting the Mile-High City over coastal contenders as home for its new North American food festival.
4. Colorado enhanced its reputation for care of the climate as Vail was named one of the 100 most sustainable cities on earth and the CTO became the first state strategic partner for the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics. The iconic Leave No Trace Seven Principles — already embraced by the key federal public land agencies, most top outdoor retailers and Subaru — soon will be embedded in Colorado tourism messaging and practices as well.
3. Our state’s commitment to protecting public lands was a key factor in winning the massive Outdoor Retailer Show for Denver. A full-court press masterminded by Luis Benitez, director of the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office, and VISIT DENVER took a prize estimated to bring 85,000 attendees to three shows a year with an economic impact of $110 million annually.
2. Ten months in the making, the Colorado Tourism Roadmap was adopted unanimously on March 15 by the Colorado Tourism Board. Deeply informed by research, including more than 20 face-to-face listening sessions, and developed in close collaboration with industry stakeholders, this new statewide strategic plan charts a 3- to 5-year path to drive traveler spending through increased collaboration, development of new attractions and careful use of resources.
1. With a massive turnaround from the depths of the Great Recession, Colorado for the first time broke into the ranks of the top 10 most-visited states for discretionary leisure travelers. Longwoods International showed Colorado increased its share of marketable leisure travelers to 3.1 percent in 2016, up from 2.8 percent the prior year, moving from 13th to 9th most visited state in just one year. Since 2009, Colorado has built visitor spending at more than twice the national average, while shattering prior records six years running. Those 82.4 million visitors who spent $19.7 billion in 2016 also helped mark new milestones for Denver, which topped the 30 million mark for travelers, and the Pike’s Peak region, which boosted visitation by an astonishing 12 percent to 23 million.