Tourism rally at Capitol helps kick off summer marketing push
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By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — Travelers planning an epic Colorado road trip this summer will able to share their pictures of Hanging Lake and the Maroon Bells, as well as their Foursquare check-ins with an easy click from their smartphones, thanks to the snazzy new mobile website launched by the Colorado Tourism Office this week.
The mobile site is designed for iPhones, Android devices and other smartphones and features buttons for hot deals, timely specials from hotels and restaurants and listings for special events and concerts. It serves as a launchpad to connecting with the Colorado Tourism Office via social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and Foursquare.
“Mobile technologies are rapidly evolving and they enable us to engage visitors before and during a trip to Colorado,” said Colorado Tourism Office director Al White. “The mobile My Colorado feature, currently a popular function of Colorado.com, enables visitors to share their itineraries with friends following the completion of their trip, using the connectivity of social media channels,” he added.
White said he’s optimistic that travel will continue to rebound this summer.
“Expectations for this year’s travel are high. It appears that the US is slowly pulling itself out of the “Great Recession” and starting to recognize that instead of reacting in horror to a roughly 9 percent unemployment rate, they are beginning to understand that 91 out of every one hundred Americans are employed, and that the bottom not only has been reached, but we have actually rebounded from our low point,” White said via email.
“Their discretionary dollars are being spent on long overdue purchases. That includes travel. We anticipate that Americans are going to travel this summer in numbers that we haven’t seen for a few years,” he said.
White said one his favorite places to visit are the Tarryall Mountains, one of the state’s lesser-known ranges located west of Colorado Springs, where he spent time as a youth camp leader many years ago.
He doesn’t think the recent spike in gas prices will dampen travel too much, and said that the latest predictions are that the price per gallon could drop by as much as fifty cents before the heart of the summer travel season arrives. Even at current levels, the increase from last year would only make a difference of about $100 for a family trekking from Chicago to Colorado.
“That’s not really all that much compared to the total cost of a $2,000 to $3,000 trip,” he said.
Global travel has rebounded strongly since the heart of the recession, and Colorado is prepared to capitalize on that growth by focusing on the countries that send the most visitors to the state: Canada, Mexico, the UK, Germany, France and Japan. The tourism office has an international program director who oversees travel brokers in those countries.
The 2010 annual tourism report for the state is still in the works, but White said he expects that overall spending will be down. According to report for 2009, visitation was up, buy spending was down.
“I anticipate that will be the case in 2010 as well,” he said.
The budget for the state tourism office held steady even during tight budget times at atou $15 million.
“This is quite remarkable given our economic challenges. It is a tribute to our Governor, and his support of tourism, and the legislature, which has come to recognize the importance of tourism as an economic driver in our state,” he said.
Only 3% of our budget is spent on administration, and the rest goes to marketing efforts of some sort, whether it is heritage/cultural, agritourism, international, mass media, website/interactive, or welcome centers, virtually all that we do is keyed toward putting out the “visit Colorado” message,” he said.
White said key tourism stakeholders have had some “loose discussions” about pursuing different funding opportunities.
“All of these discussions would require going to the ballot, and at this time there is no concerted effort within the industry to organize that effort,” he concluded.
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