Durango puts best foot forward at IPW in Denver

Friday, May 25, 2018 7:59 PM
Frank Lockwood mimics the Colorado Blue Bear at the Denver Convention Center.

I am writing this column from Denver today. As I look down from my 10th-floor hotel room, I see the back of a blue bear peering into the Denver Convention Center. Also known as “I See What You Mean,” the 40-foot, three-story Colorado Blue Bear is a Denver icon, as well as a prime selfie opportunity.

As I mentioned in my last column, I am in the midst of IPW, the nation’s largest travel trade show. The Durango Area Tourism Office is an exhibitor and we invited some of our industry partners to participate.

Throughout the three-day convention, appointments are scheduled between parties from all over the world to collect information and make deals. Our industry partners from the Durango area include Laura Lee Wren from Purgatory Resort, Jeff Lyman from Sky Ute Casino Resort and Carrie Whitley from the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.

Everyone is working diligently to promote Durango’s attractions and accommodations, while determining the needs and desires of travel groups and organizers who meet with us. We also brought along our public relations guru, Theresa Blake Graven, to meet with many of the 600 foreign-travel writer journalists interested in sharing the latest news and attractions with their readers.

I met with the executive director of the International Inbound Travel Association, whose mission is to “help inbound operators facilitate travel to the United States through our expertise and partnerships with suppliers.” IITA inbound tour operators, also known as receptive tour operators, are U.S.-based companies which specialize in creating, marketing and selling U.S. travel products to international travelers. When the international traveler arrives in the United States, IITA guides and takes care of those travelers.

Why would I be meeting with their executive director? As it turns out, we have been emailing back and forth about bringing both their board of directors and advisory board to Durango for the first time for their summer retreat. As we began talking, I realized that the executive director knew very little about Durango and the surrounding area.

After describing what we have to offer to her board members, and showing her the beautiful photos at our exhibit, we not only agreed that they would plan on coming to Durango in 2019, but also that she would recommend they “add on” a couple of days and bring their families along for a weekend vacation following their meetings.

If just one of these board members (each of whom own large travel groups) loves Durango, it could mean a stream of international travelers for years to come. I am confident that many of these folks will fall in love with the charm and magic our community provides to visitors.

Keep in mind, international travelers typically stay longer and spend more money than American travelers, on average 14 days and $4,000 per traveler.

Contact Durango Area Tourism Office Executive Director Frank Lockwood at