As a non-profit, business-type organization, the Durango Area Tourism Office is contracted by both the city and county to provide tourism marketing services. These services are paid from receipts of lodgers tax collected by each governmental entity. As part of this contract, DATO is required to create an annual Marketing and Operations Plan.
These are the kinds of questions we ask ourselves in creating this plan:
1. What are the factors that might impact tourism in the U.S. in the upcoming years?
This is a complicated question with many answers. First of all, it’s good to know that the tourism industry in Colorado is increasing at double the national average. However, recent studies have shown that U.S tourism, which accounts for 11 percent of all jobs in the United States, is experiencing what is referred to as the Trump Slump. That is, tourism is down in the U.S by 6 percent while increasing by 10 percent in most other countries. There is no way of telling right now whether this national trend will affect Colorado or Durango in particular.
2. With the state of Colorado growing by about 10,000 people a month, mostly on the front range, how will this growth affect tourism in other areas of the state?
Any of us who have been to the Denver metropolitan area recently are aware of the traffic jams and lengthening rush hour challenges, from Conifer to Boulder. This maddening byproduct of urban growth presents tremendous tourism opportunities for those of us in less easy-to-get-to areas like La Plata County. Many of those who moved to the front range did so to experience the Rocky Mountains only to find themselves spending more time on a freeway. Many quickly look to other areas of Colorado where they can find what they came for in the first place: beautiful vistas and outdoor opportunities, without the crowds.
3. How has the increasing use of the internet by millennials, as well as baby boomers, affected how we market the Durango area?
Although print advertising remains alive and well, studies are increasingly showing that people planning their vacations can do more and get more information on their computers than any other way. Google Analytics and other measuring devices can demonstrate how effective investment in online marketing strategies actually is. Our office has already redirected significant dollars from print to digital marketing and this trend will probably continue. Use of social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram remain powerful forces for strategic placement of good marketing material.
4. How do Durango and Southwest Colorado differentiate themselves from competing places like Crested Butte, Telluride, Aspen or even Santa Fe or Taos?
Many of these areas offer many of the same experiences as Durango. Hiking, rafting, biking and skiing (the “ings”) are common to all these areas. How is Durango different? The Durango Brand means different things to different people. To some it means a true small town not overtaken by the rich and famous. To others, it means a quality place in which to raise a family. To yet others, it is a fun place with truly friendly people. How do we communicate that specialness to the outside world?
5. Finally, how do we support a healthy tourism market and not threaten the small town way of life that attracted many of us to move here?
Many times during the high season, local residents complain of problems finding parking or waiting for a table at a restaurant. At the same time, we all realize that many of the businesses we enjoy and which employ a quarter of our workforce could simply not exist without tourism dollars during the high season, allowing them to keep afloat during the shoulder season. How can we attract visitors during the shoulder season for other than leisure purposes?
Doing our best to answer these types of questions assists us in determining the best way to invest your tourism dollars. It is not an exact science, but it does demand frequent analysis and awareness of changing markets and visitor habits.
We will keep you posted on our progress.
firstname.lastname@example.org. Frank Lockwood is executive director of the Durango Area Tourism Office.