STATE TOURISM SAYS IT NEEDS $10M MORE
If the Colorado Tourism Roadmap, a plan to grow the state’s tourism industry, is going to work, the tourism office says it needs $10 million more a year atop its $19.6 million in annual funding.
The Colorado Tourism Board has mapped a plan to grow the state’s tourism industry through collaboration, pushing travelers into new places and a focus on sustainability and reducing impacts. And if that new Colorado Tourism Roadmap is going to work, the office says it needs $10 million more a year atop its $19.6 million in annual funding.
The Colorado Tourism Roadmap — a 24page document developed through the input of more than 1,000 industry professionals and elected leaders who participated in more than 20 tourism office listening sessions last year — will guide Colorado’s tourism promotion efforts going forward.
“While much of the roadmap’s thinking is focused on the future, it’s also structured to deliver some near-term wins,” said tourism office director Cathy Ritter, in a statement. “Our goal in creating the roadmap is to build the potential of the entire Colorado tourism industry by creating conditions that drive the right kind of growth, with maximum benefit and minimum impact.”
The roadmap — along with new research showing Colorado’s annual traveler-spending growing twice as fast as the national average since 2009 — spotlights how the state can grow the tourism industry through a focus on luring the right types of visitors into the right places. That effort was, according to the roadmap, “inspired by heartfelt concerns regarding visitor impacts expressed in listening sessions across the state.” The roadmap supports a more sustainable approach to tourism, pushing the industry beyond simply luring visitors. The idea is to promote a responsibility around traveling, creating an awareness of the impacts and a sort of code of ethics for travelers who want to celebrate a place instead of simply seeing it.
“This is not just about growing the asset, but developing a responsibility around the utilization of the asset,” said Luis Benitez, the head of the Colorado Office of Recreation Industry, whose work to grow the state’s outdoor recreation industry dove-
tails with the state’s new tourism strategies. “This is our responsibility, especially for a state that has pretty strong population growth and that population wants to get out and recreate.”
Plans call for transforming the state’s multiple Destination Marking Organizations into Destination Management Organizations mirroring the state’s vibrant Cultural, Heritage and Agritourism program, which has boosted visitation to Colorado’s more rural and less-trafficked locales.
“Encouraging travelers to sample lesser-traveled, yet uniquely Colorado destinations rather than highly visited, well-known destinations spreads the benefits of tourism more widely, protects precious assets and gives visitors bragging rights for out-of-the-ordinary experiences,” the roadmap’s architects wrote.
The roadmap promotes local tourism champions to become “destination architects” who look beyond marketing and promotion by creating new opportunities for travelers. The tourism office highlighted the new Colorado Historic Hot Springs Loop as an example of how regions can forge new attractions without building anything new.
“Too frequently, destinations silo their visitors: They are skiers, history enthusiasts or foodies. In reality, for many visitors, they are all of the above, and that visitor needs someone to connect the dots to create interesting, compelling experiences that combine many of their interests,” reads the roadmap. “Whether working to disperse visitors to lesserknown destinations that can support higher utilization, helping visitors understand the best times to see a particular attraction, or helping educate visitors on how to be good stewards while visiting Colorado, DMOs can be key facilitators in heightening the awareness of good stewardship and sustainable tourism.”
To build Colorado’s appeal among big-spending travelers, the roadmap proposes an expansion of a national tourism ad campaign while prodding in-state visitors to explore out-of-theway destinations with a “Colorado field guide” that showcases hidden gems. The roadmap urges a campaign to motivate the state’s residents in a Colorado promotion effort that would not only grow visitation but help connect residents with the value of tourism and visitor contributions to the Colorado lifestyle.
The roadmap notes that Colorado ranks 13th among the top 20 state tourism budgets and other states are increasing their tourism spending. Flat budgets for Colorado tourism spending — set at $19.6 million a year for the last two years — give competitors like Oregon and Utah a chance to steal Colorado visitors, says the roadmap.
In order to keep pace with those other states, the roadmap suggests Colorado legislators increase the state’s tourism budget to $29 million, a boost based on visitor volumes and budgets in the country’s 20 top-funded tourism offices. That push for more support starts with education and showing Colorado’s residents and elected officials more clearly how the state’s 77.7 million visitors stirring $19.1 billion in spending not only supports Colorado’s economy but the lifestyle that residents enjoy.
“This plan identifies several new opportunities for our state to generate even more economic and lifestyle benefits from tourism,” said Matt Skinner, chair of the Colorado Tourism Board and chief of Telluride’s Colorado Flights Alliance, in a statement. “As we continue to grow and push forward with our new and established programs, it’s critical that Colorado maintain a level of funding commensurate with tourism’s contribution to the state economy and our competitive set.”