Last week, my staff and I attended the Colorado Governor’s Tourism Conference in Grand Junction along with 300 other enthusiastic travel industry professionals. The conference was jam-packed with workshops, speeches and networking opportunities.
We learned that the travel industry is a $2.1 trillion industry. That’s 3 more zeros than a billion, in case you were wondering. It also supports 15 million jobs in the United States. We also heard from travel guru Rick Steves, who gave an impassioned speech on Travel as a Political Act, also the name of his new book. In the book, Steves attempts to describe how Americans can fit into 96 percent of the rest of the world, and how we can better understand our role in the world by experiencing it.
Much of the conference was devoted to honing and improving our skills as destination marketing organizations, or DMOs for short. There were discussions on branding your destination, and your region. In fact, the Colorado Tourism Office just commissioned a regional branding study to let everyone know the best way to associate our destination with others in our area.
This is not a bad idea since we here in Durango are primarily a drive destination. As a result, folks frequently don’t just camp out here but jump in the car or RV and see the sights nearby, or, continue on, making Durango or La Plata County one of many stops throughout their vacation. Once we associate ourselves with places like Mesa Verde or the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, we can recommend to visitors the many sites and places to visit to enhance their vacation.
There was also a lot of discussion about the International Pow Wow coming to Denver in May of 2018. IPW is the world’s largest travel trade show. There will be an estimated 6,000 attendees, including 1,300 buyers and 600 media from 70 countries, descending on Denver, and then dispersing around our wonderful state.
Because it is in Colorado, Fam (familiarization) tours will be plentiful, bringing in travel industry professionals from China, Japan and all over Europe, who will scour Colorado for places to recommend to their customer base. This will cause a boon to tourism in Colorado for years to come, with potential overflow to us on the Western Slope.
It is estimated that the economic impact of IPW to Colorado will be $1.7 billion in international tourism revenue within three years. That is an amazing benefit to our state’s economy.
We also learned that social media and mobile web browsing are the two most popular places people look before they make travel plans. In the middle somewhere is email and TV, with newspaper, sad to say, bringing up the rear.
In fact, on average, people will look at more than 100 websites before they are ready to make travel reservations.
Of the social media traffic, it is reported that 53 percent of Americans use Facebook every day! And of the people making decisions about travel, 65 percent of those are women.
Finally, the No. 1 Facebook users and travel spenders are Gen Xers, those between ages 35 and 55 years of age.
I also attended a workshop on sustainable tourism, put on by an organization aptly called, Leave No Trace. LNT is a set of outdoor ethics promoting conservation in the outdoors and consists of seven principles.
Chief among them is disposing of waste properly and leaving what you find.
We will be incorporating some of these principles and building them into our message to show visitors how we preserve the beautiful landscape in and around our town and keep it beautiful for others.
It is sad that this has to be communicated, but it is worth noting that people are much less ethical and concerned with their actions when they are on vacation than in their own hometowns.
On a good note, effective messaging for responsible tourism works.
Finally, we learned that food and drink are a big draw for visitors (duh). In that regard, the Durango Area Tourism Office is completing a restaurant video that will go out on social media, along with a continuation of our Crafted Beverages campaign, celebrating beer, wine, cider and locally made hard liquor.
Look to next year to our expansion of this program.
Contact Durango Area Tourism Office Executive Director Frank Lockwood at firstname.lastname@example.org.