Marketing efforts will ramp up this summer in an effort to reverse the financial harm caused by the 416 Fire and bring tourists to Durango.
Durango’s streets have been fairly quiet in recent weeks as news of the 416 Fire spread. As of Thursday, about 6,880 national and international news articles have been written about the 416 Fire. Purchasing an equivalent amount of advertising about Durango would cost about $60 million, said Theresa Blake, public relations consultant with Durango Area Tourism Office.
To help bring business back to town, the Business Improvement District and Durango Area Tourism Office are focused on spreading a positive message about Durango as a destination, especially in areas such as the Front Range and Albuquerque, where prospective visitors can drive to town and don’t need as much time to plan a trip.
The Missionary Ridge Fire hurt tourism in 2002 and 2003, and DATO wants to make sure the economic effects of the 416 Fire don’t linger in the same way, Blake said.
“We are working to prevent any further damage from what we’ve already experienced,” she said.
BID plans to spend up to $28,000 on emergency efforts to encourage residents and tourists to visit downtown and north Main Avenue, BID’s Executive Director Tim Walsworth said.
“We want to do everything in our power to help the businesses in the BID,” he said.
The BID delayed boosting its marketing during the most intense days of the 416 Fire, but the BID and other economic-development groups in town have decided it is best not to wait until the fire is out to start increasing marketing efforts, Walsworth said.
“Everybody is on the same page,” he said.
The fire may be burning for a long time, and its direct impact to the town is limited to smoke, which usually clears during the day, he said.
BID purchased 1,000 radio commercials to air on 11 stations throughout the region, letting residents know Durango is open for business. It is also planning three block parties along Main Avenue on July 13, July 20 and July 27 to encourage residents to shop downtown. Each party will showcase a different area along Main Avenue.
The BID also voted this week to give $10,000 to DATO for marketing, and it could spend $5,000 more on marketing outside the area, Walsworth said.
Most of DATO’s summer marketing was planned to happen in May and June, and additional marketing was planned for August and September. But as a result of the fire, the lodgers tax-funded office expects to double its advertising efforts in July by reallocating some of its own funds and through the BID funding, said Beth Lueck, DATO’s marketing director.
DATO planned to spend $30,000 in July on advertising through print, digital, social media and broadcast media outlets.
Lueck couldn’t say exactly how much DATO planned to reallocate for July advertising, and she doesn’t expect the additional funding will double July’s marketing budget, but it will increase the number of ads placed and people who are reached, Lueck said.
DATO is also planning to pay for more visibility on Colorado.com, the state’s tourism site, and two national marketing campaigns to help draw visitors.
In addition to promoting Durango as a destination, DATO also plans to demonstrate the strength of the community and how it came together during the 416 Fire as part of its marketing campaign, Lueck said.
“Community is one of the things that makes Durango so special,” she said.
While the fire was attracting the most media attention, DATO also contacted news reporters outside the area to let them know about the Community Emergency Relief Fund and how residents in La Plata County were helping each other, Blake said.
Budget Travel, a widely read website, recently named Durango one of the 10 coolest small towns in America, which is expected to aid DATO’s marketing efforts, Blake said.
“That just couldn’t have come at a better time,” she said.