STATE TOURISM SAYS IT NEEDS $10M MORE

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Ja­son Blevins

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.”

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