First off, Happy New Year from the Durango Area Tourism Office! And thanks to The Durango Herald, which will be running 12 columns on tourism in 2015.
When it comes to attracting tourists, envision a stack of umbrellas, one under the other. The largest umbrella at the top is BRAND USA, a public-private partnership that promotes the United States as a global travel destination. Beneath BRAND USA, all 50 states operate tourism agencies targeting international travelers.
In our state, the Colorado Tourism Office spends a portion of its 20-plus million-dollar budget promoting Colorado around the world. DATO invests about 10 percent of our marketing budget on international programs and participates with both Brand USA and the CTO in travel promotions across the world. Overhearing foreign languages on Main Avenue is an increasingly common occurrence.
The private side of tourism promotion represents another umbrella of travel marketing. There are travel wholesalers, travel agencies, tour operators and airlines promoting packaged U.S. destinations, including Durango and the Four Corners.
International visitors are keen to explore the colorful history and Western ambiance of the Southwest. Generally, Central Europeans enjoy our local spirits, culinary scene and outdoor recreation. The British come for snow sports, summer adventures, shopping and dining. In particular, the Japanese and Europeans love learning about the culture of the Native American.
Directly under the state of Colorado tourism umbrella is public-tax supported regional Destination Marketing Organizations, like DATO, that promote their own unique tourism attributes. In essence, we compete with other DMOs for customers from fly-and-drive markets like Texas, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and Southern California. Whenever possible, DATO follows CTO into our target markets – stretching our budget and delivering the vacation experience Colorado is promoting. The bulk of DATO’s budget is spent on domestic marketing programs, and most visitors arrive by car.
The last umbrella is the marketing programs of local businesses that cater to tourists. Larger marketers here include the railroad, Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort, the Strater Hotel, the river rafters, Lake Vallecito and many of Durango’s other tourism attractions and amenities. In addition, local organizations – like the Business Improvement District and the Durango Chamber of Commerce – promote local businesses to tourists.
While it’s clear work to attract tourists falls on many shoulders, the payoff on those layers of time and investment comes down to single encounters and experiences. The most important level of influence is the local van driver, the hotel clerk, the ski instructor, the restaurant server, the bartender, the store clerk, the river guide or just the friendly smile from a local on Main Avenue.
firstname.lastname@example.org. Bob Kunkel is executive director of the Durango Area Tourism Office.