Colorado tourism hits record pace

Outside of Denver, the No. 2 urban market to deliver tourists to Colorado last year was Colorado Springs-Pueblo, according to a study released last week by a Canadian market research firm

The major statewide news from the report, submitted by Longwoods International based in Toronto, showed that Colorado's spending on tourism marketing campaigns appears to be working.

The state boasted a record 25.9 million overnight travelers in 2005.

The number is up 1 percent from 2004 and is the highest since the Colorado Tourism Office began tracking visitor data in 1992.

According to the study, which was requested by the Colorado Tourism Office, approximately 4 in 10 Colorado vacationers spent time in the Denver metro area, while 3 in 10 visited the northwest and south-central areas.

Denver was the most-visited destination, drawing visitors with such tourist attractions as the LoDo Historic District, Denver Zoo, Red Rocks Amphitheatre, the state Capitol, Coors brewery, U.S. Mint and professional sports team events as well as its shopping areas and malls.

The northwest and south-central areas trailed the Denver metro area in drawing the most tourists.

In the northwest, Vail, Breckenridge, Beaver Creek, Grand Junction, Glenwood Springs and Aspen/Snowmass were the most visited areas.

In the south-central area, the top attractions were Colorado Springs, followed by Pikes Peak, the Garden of the Gods Park and the Royal Gorge, as well as the towns of Manitou Springs, Cripple Creek, Buena Vista and Salida.

By region, the other visitor numbers were north-central (21 percent), southwest (13 percent), southeast (6 percent) and northeast (6 percent).

In Southeastern Colorado, the most popular tourist stops were Pueblo and Trinidad.

Heading southwest, visitors stopped in Durango with its Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, the Mesa Verde National Park near Cortez, the Black Canyon area near Gunnison and Telluride.

What's most promising from the report is that Colorado appears to be bucking a national trend in that visitors who came on leisure trips, not on business or family matters, grew 6 percent to 11.7 million in 2005. Nationally, those trips grew 2 percent, according to the Longwoods study.

That indicator would seem to show there still is huge potential for drawing more tourists to Colorado, including its less-visited areas.

The study also found that visitor spending in Colorado increased to $8.2 billion in 2005, up more than $900 million from the previous year.

This year, Colorado lawmakers allocated approximately $14 million for the state to use on marketing and advertising campaigns.

The money will be used on the ''Big Words'' campaign, where words such as ''Color,'' ''Free'' and ''Glory'' are in large white print with Colorado landscapes in the background. The tourism office said it plans to continue the blitz at least through the end of the year.

''The increase in marketable trips is consistent with the results of the annual advertising effectiveness studies we have been conducting for the state,'' said Michael Erdman, senior vice president at Longwoods. ''The campaign is clearly working.''

No visitor numbers were available for the current tourism season to gauge the impact of rising gasoline prices and airfares, said Stefanie Dalgar, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Economic Development & International Trade office.

"What we do know is that everyone seems to be optimistic about the summer season," she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


Here are some conclusions from a marketing study on Colorado travel in 2005:

  • Two-thirds of tourists traveled 500 miles or more to reach Colorado, double the national norm for vacation travel.
  • The Internet is the top formal source of information that Colorado vacationers use to plan their trip.
  • Colorado vacationers were as likely to fly as drive, an indicator well above the normal for air travel.
  • Most vacation travel, 60 percent, occurred in the spring and summer, which is consistent with travel patterns nationwide.
    Outdoor vacationers to Colorado are slightly younger than the average Colorado visitor average of 42 years old.
  • Almost 9 in 10 visitors gave Colorado a strongly positive overall rating as "a place they would really enjoy visiting again."
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