What is Durango best known for?

Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018 2:55 PM

What is Durango best known for? More specifically, why do prospective visitors choose Durango over other places they might want to visit? These and questions like these drive destination marketing organizations to design their marketing campaigns to appeal and focus visitors on the strengths of what their destination has to offer. But they are not the same question.

Let’s take the first question. What is Durango best known for? The answer seems pretty simple: The train, of course. The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad is only one of 11 steam engine railroads in the United States.

But Durango is also known for its Old West downtown, named the “No. 1 True Western Town” by True West Magazine in 2015. And just recently, Budget Travel named Durango as one of the “10 Coolest Small Towns in America.”

At one time, Durango was also known as the “Mountain Bike Capital of the World,” probably because it held the World Mountain Bike Championships right here back in 1990. Many folks consider Moab, Utah, to now wear that crown, but there are rumblings that Durango, and more specifically, Purgatory, is aiming to snatch it back soon.

But how about the fact that Durango has more restaurants, per capita, than San Francisco. And many award-winning restaurants at that? And what about our outstanding micro-breweries and other locally-made crafted beverages?

And what about our proximity to hiking trails, river rafting, skiing, hunting or rock climbing? All of these other activities and attractions are what led our office to adopt the tagline, “A Dozen Vacations in One Destination” a few years ago.

However, almost any destination in the Rocky Mountains that offers these activities competes with Durango. It’s a crowded category and a “Dozen Vacations” does not effectively differentiate us from other towns that also have spectacular scenery and a variety of things to do.

As a result, this tagline may not serve one of the main purposes of branding: that is, to have Durango stand out from the crowd.

In the coming months, the Durango Area Tourism Office will set out to explore aspects of “place branding.” Examples of place branding are Asheville, North Carolina’s “FOODTOPIA, A Creative Culinary Community,” or Los Angeles’ “Everyone is Welcome,” or even Utah’s “Life Elevated.”

What would be your suggestion for branding Durango? What idea or phrase can we simply and effectively use to describe what makes life so special here that others may want to come and experience it, even if for just a few days?

I’d love to hear your suggestions. Email me or comment in the online edition.

Contact Durango Area Tourism Office Executive Director Frank Lockwood at