If you missed last Wednesday’s What’s Up Downtown? column by Tim Walsworth, executive director of the Business Improvement District, please read it (currently posted on The Durango Herald website under “Columnists”). The report is a concise summary of how Durango fared economically in 2015. Allow me to take Tim’s column a step further.
Looking down from 30,000 feet, the bigger picture is equally positive. Colorado has enjoyed a soaring tourism industry the last few years. Let’s look at results from several perspectives and personalities.
For the Type A’s who “just want the bottom line,” Colorado tourism continues to set year-over-year attendance, revenue, and tax-collection records.
For Midwestern skeptics who say, “Show me numbers, and I’ll decide,”the Colorado Tourism Office (CTO) award-winning “Come to Life” advertising campaign resonated with vacation shoppers attracting a record 71.3 million visitors to Colorado in 2014. For every $1 invested by the state tourism office, visitors spent $361 per person generating a whopping $18.6 billion in lodging, food, and activity revenue. That level of visitor spending set a new state record and stuffed more than $1.1 billion in state and local tax coffers.
For the belly-button analysts who say, “How do we compare against the rest of the competition?” Colorado continues to rank in the top five aspirational destinations along with California, Florida, New York, and Hawaii, yet Colorado ranks 31st among 47 U.S. states for the proportion of visitor taxes reinvested in state tourism marketing.
For the Doubting Thomas’ types who ask, “Does this marketing stuff really matter?” in 1993 Colorado became the only state to reduce (eliminate) its tourism marketing budget from $12 million to zero. As a result, Colorado’s domestic market share dropped 30 percent within two years, representing a loss of more than $1.4 billion in tourism-related revenue. In the important summer destinations segment, Colorado dropped from first place to 17th.
For the conspiracy theorists who claim “somebody must be profiting from this,”the tourism industry is a leading employer in Colorado supporting over 155,300 jobs and generating a $5.1 billion payroll.
For the long-suffering types convinced “the Front Range and the big ski resorts get all the attention,” the Colorado Tourism Office is No. 1 in the U.S. for dollars dedicated to promotion of our rural regions and agricultural tourism marketing (farm-to-table, craft breweries, wineries).
So, when a visitor to our area checks into a lodging property, buys from a retailer, rides the train, or eats in a restaurant many layers of coordinated marketing promotion from the state level, to the region, to the local, to the individual tourism business has played a role in the economic success.
email@example.com. Bob Kunkel is executive director of the Durango Area Tourism Office.