Durango’s tourism market is evolving

Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017 7:59 PM
Bob Kunkel

Over the past 20 years, awareness of Durango and the Four Corners area has grown exponentially.

While first the railroad and then the ski resort were the predominant seasonal attractions, people today know Durango for a much greater variety of “reasons-to-visit.”

This growth of image and reputation can be traced to many factors.

Foremost is the development of the internet into a massive two-way, global communication tool. As it has proven to be, the internet is perfectly suited to promote vacation destinations. The vacation shopper has unlimited instant access to up-to-date information, as well as important exciting images, engaging videos, itinerary building, packages, price comparisons and reviews.

Tourism organizations like ours have all transitioned to internet-based marketing using websites, social media, digital advertising, search engine optimization, analytic tracking and many other tools. Durango can be accessed from anywhere in the world and vice versa.

Last week, we partnered with CTO on a Facebook advertisement that displayed our new, summer video to anyone who visited the Colorado website or the Durango website in the last 90 days. In the first three days the ad ran, the video was watched over 300,000 times, with more than 2,500 shares and 1,000 comments.

There are also “people factors” that explain Durango’s expanded awareness. With cities being crowded and complex, people aspire to vacation in places that reconnect them to calming natural environments. .

Above I made reference to “reasons to visit,” Durango is no longer a one-night stop for summer travelers wanting to just ride the train and move on. Those seeking outdoor adventures find Durango a great destination for rafting, kayaking or zip-lining. Ski resorts are no longer underutilized in summer but offer all-day activities, festivals and competitions. Mountain bikers, hikers and climbers can enjoy well-developed trail systems or escape to complete wilderness. These are all great reasons to visit in the summer seasons, but what about the shoulder months when local businesses need an economic boost?

The visitors we benefit from in the summer can mostly be categorized as “discretionary leisure travelers.”

Every competitive destination aggressively promotes itself to this fickle and unpredictable summer audience. If it were not for the special wintertime rail promotions and skiers and snowboarders, winter in Durango would be a much greater economic challenge for local businesses. But any business person would welcome more customers between late October and May.

Over the next 20 years, the solution to achieving a balanced visitor economy is developing off-peak reasons to visit that attract a more determined and lucrative visitor known as the “purposeful traveler.” These visitors are committed to traveling in late fall, winter and early spring to sports tournaments, arts and theatrical performances, winter events, and meetings and conferences. Bob Kunkel is executive director of the Durango Area Tourism Office.