For those who depend on tourism, this is when the season kicks into high gear.
The owner of a local recreational-vehicles business just told me he just enjoyed his last Sunday off until October, and as along as business was good, he wasn’t complaining.
So, how is the summer shaping up?
Locally, the advance bookings at the railroad and lodging properties that report occupancies are up. The wet spring surely will help the river and lake businesses and hopefully reduce the possibilities of wildfires.
Lower gas prices will encourage more out-of-state travelers.
Cases-in-point: In a normal year, Durango might host a car club; this year, the Durango Area Tourism Office currently is working with four auto clubs planning trips through Durango. The local private RV campgrounds are reporting strong advanced reservations with some weekends already sold out.
Nearby national parks and campgrounds are predicting heavy visitation with camp sites almost booked up. And motorcycle tourism in the Four Corners has been steadily increasing because of growing notoriety of the Million Dollar Highway and San Juan Skyway.
For Durango, with the help of two new hotel properties adding nearly 200 rooms to our bed base, year-end lodgers tax collections in 2013 and 2014 ended with double-digit gains, and they currently are on a similar pace.
Be assured that the Durango Area Tourism Office is taking full advantage of all these positive signs and firing on all cylinders with public-relation efforts, sales, advertising and social-media programs running in high gear. A special late-summer Beat the Heat campaign also is in the works.
The bigger picture also is encouraging with pent-up demand for summer vacations after a tough winter. Travel organizations such as AAA and US Travel are bullish with their travel predictions.
In tourism, as in sports, momentum is an important factor. Colorado is coming off two consecutive years of record-setting tourism numbers, and 2015 is expected to be as strong. Talk to anyone who has taken a recent vacation, and they will tell you, “The place was packed with tourists.”
Are there any potential negatives? Yes. The U.S. dollar has grown stronger against the euro and British pound which might bite into last-minute bookings. In the U.S., families in states that have experienced serious flooding may cancel their plans. When your house is washed away, a vacation no longer is on your list of priorities.
Why us, why now? The Four Corners is not a single attraction destination. Our area is the most scenic and amenity-rich region in the state. We are a highly desired vacation destination, and few visitors leave disappointed.
Overall the positives dominate, so I like our odds for a very good summer tourism season.
firstname.lastname@example.org. Bob Kunkel is executive director of the Durango Area Tourism Office.