Thanks to the Durango tourism team and community, 2019 is on track to be another record-setting year for the local tourism industry.
Over the past 12 months, Visit Durango estimates 1.3 million visitors traveled to experience our region’s outdoor, historic and cultural attractions. As of Oct. 31, city lodgers tax increased 7.1% over last year. For La Plata County, sales tax is up 6.5% and lodgers tax has gained a whopping 22.3%.
This time last year, the community faced both obstacles and opportunities. The 416 Fire put a lot of stress on our community, especially surrounding tourism, but we came together for a strong recovery. Community leaders, including Visit Durango, helped fundraise $416,000 for those who lost their jobs or were evacuated and small businesses and nonprofits that were affected by the 416 Fire.
After the fire, Visit Durango focused on strengthening the economic impact of tourism on our community. The tourism office invested in several new research tools in 2019, the first being STR (formerly Smith Travel Research) to better understand lodging performance by measuring occupancy, average daily rates and revenue per room in Durango.
Visit Durango also added the “Tourism Sentiment Index” to actively listen and understand the voice of the visitor. “All The Rooms” research helped La Plata County identify missed revenue from the growing vacation rental market. Moving forward, collecting lodgers tax from the over 1,000 unreported vacation rentals in La Plata County will result in additional tax revenue for the county.
Visit Durango operates the Welcome Center in close partnership with the city of Durango, the Business Improvement District and Fort Lewis College. So far this year, Welcome Center staff has greeted over 120,000 visitors in downtown Durango, or approximately 10% of total visitors.
Visit Durango attributes this success to the Welcome Center’s prime downtown location, convivial atmosphere and knowledgeable, friendly staff. Their dedication and hard work encourages visitors to experience all that Durango and the surrounding region have to offer and hopefully stay another day or two.
According to Visitor Services Manager Grace Shepherd, it is the staff and strong partnerships that make the Welcome Center so successful. For example, this year the Mesa Verde Museum Association booth in the Welcome Center set a new record and sold over 30,000 ranger-led tour tickets. The Welcome Center expects to celebrate its 1 millionth visitor in 2021.
Visit Durango also accomplished the most ambitious of goals and launched a completely redesigned website and travel planner. Please check out the new website at durango.org and stay tuned for the Travel Planner booklet, which will hit shelves this January.
Following the interim leadership of Barb Bowman, Rachel Brown, the new full-time executive director from the San Francisco tourism industry, will now lead Visit Durango into a new era from destination marketing to destination management. Destination marketing organizations, like Visit Durango, are developing new partnerships with local organizations to improve the destination experience.
A sustainable tourism strategy will be prioritized in order to enhance quality of life for Durango residents. Future initiatives for 2020 beyond sustainable tourism include implementation of the Leave No Trace philosophy, conducting a local resident sentiment survey, and a potential rebrand for Visit Durango, to name a few.
Special thanks from Visit Durango to our community, industry partners and hard-working staff for your dedication and support. Happy holidays and we look forward to a fantastic year ahead!
Theresa Graven is the PR strategist for the Durango Area Tourism Office. She can be reached at 247-3500 or firstname.lastname@example.org.