Tourism is perceived as the most important industry in Colorado, ahead of agriculture, technology and mining, the head of the Colorado Tourism Office said last week during a presentation organized by the Colorado Chamber of Commerce in partnership with the Basalt, Carbondale, Glenwood and Aspen chambers of commerce.
Cathy Ritter, in remarks presented locally Sept. 12, said that growing numbers of travelers, particularly millennial and Gen-Xers, maintain that sustainability is important when making vacation plans. Colorado is the number-two most desired vacation destination in the U.S. after Hawaii, she added.
What does this all mean for Basalt and communities up and down the Roaring Fork Valley? It means that Basalt, et. al, have strong partners in Denver, the Colorado Tourism Office and the Colorado Chamber of Commerce that are helping distinguish this valley as a prime destination for visitors looking for a unique experience in places committed to the protection of our wild spaces and to sustainable practices that preserve our natural resources.
The Basalt Chamber of Commerce’s new destination marketing campaign could be revealed as soon as early November. The organization’s annual meeting is Oct. 17, 6:30 p.m. at Free Range restaurant.
According to the state’s information, during 2018, the number of visitors to Colorado increased 3 percent over the prior year. Direct spending rose to $22.3 billion with state and local taxes jumping 6.6 percent to $1.37 billion.
Colorado consistently outpaces the national averages for tourism sector growth with spending per visitor and hotel occupancy rates on the rise across the state. Spending by travelers to Colorado has increased 65 percent since the depths of the 2008 great recession, as compared with 46 percent nationally.
Tourism is a gateway for business and investment across Colorado, and this is especially true in the Roaring Fork Valley, where four area chambers of commerce are analyzing trends and promoting cooperation among business leaders. The Basalt Area Chamber of Commerce (BACC) along with the Carbondale, Glenwood and Aspen chambers seek to make the Roaring Fork Valley more attractive as a destination for business, investment and tourism.
“The Roaring Fork Valley chambers recognize the importance of collaboration as we are all impacted by common issues. Each community has its strengths, and by working together we can accomplish something greater for the valley as a whole,” says Kris Mattera, Executive Director of the BACC.
According to Ritter, the CTO’s strategy is to drive spending per visit, rather than maximize visitor numbers. She and her team want to promote compelling and sustainable travel experiences that make Colorado the top tourism destination in the U.S. for active, outdoor and unique experiences. Her efforts support Governor Jared Polis’ goal of building a sustainable and resilient rural economy, and are focused on maintaining resilience that can weather a potential economic downturn.
The CTO has found that commitment to sustainability is a powerful factor that tourists consider when planning their vacations, and this is at the foundation of their tourism strategy. According to the organization, Colorado is viewed as a leader in sustainability with three-fourths of travelers reporting that the state does a good job protecting and preserving its natural resources. This favorable feedback is reported by visitors, but even non-visitors give the state high marks for its commitment to environmental sustainability.
As part of the tourism strategy, the CTO has conceived new branding that highlights the commitment to protecting and preserving our natural resources, in addition to our extraordinary natural beauty.
The campaign cheekily encourages visitors to: “Come to Life,” with beautiful images of our canyons, expansive night skies, and rugged outdoors way of life. In a play on words the campaign boasts that Colorado is: “Snow’s perfect State.”
The campaign has adopted regional monikers that brand distinct and diverse regions. The Roaring Fork Valley, for instance, is dubbed “the Rockies Playground.” Delta, Ouray and Durango are home to “Mountains and Mesas,” with Rifle, Meeker and Craig part of our “The Great West.”
“Colo-Road Trips” provides an online Field Guide to Itineraries for day-trippers or longer-term visitors. The CTO has designed new illustrated maps and signage, and has designed online training for the front line troops in the tourism sector at BeAColoradoConcierge.com.
CRAFT, the Colorado Rural Academy for Tourism, was launched in 2018, and offers applied training that supports rural economic development through the creation and branding of new or enhanced traveler experiences.