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Colorado tourism showed strength in 2011

Market share and tourism spending increase

Colorado’s share of the U.S. tourism market grew again slightly in 2011.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Scrapping against rivals with much larger marketing budgets, Colorado has managed to regain most of the tourism business it lost when state leaders cut funding some 20 years ago.

The fact that it took nearly two decades to make that comeback shows the importance of sustained funding, said Colorado Tourism Office director Al White, after announcing the results of the Colorado tourism report for 2011.

When the state stopped funding marketing efforts, Colorado’s national share of those so-called marketable trips dropped from 2.7 percent to 1.8 percent in just four years. It took until this year to reach that same level again, White said.

The annual study, commissioned by commissioned by the Colorado Tourism Office and VISIT DENVER, shows that tourism was up in key segments, and spending by tourists in Colorado reached new record highs.

The total number of overnight trip numbers remained the same as 2010, but the number of visitors coming to Colorado on marketable leisure trips and business trips rose by 4 percent, and that number of marketable leisure visitors (14.3 million) set a new record. With marketable visits flat on a national level, Colorado moved into 16th place overall among the 50 states, up one spot from 2010.

At the same time, there was a 6 percent drop in the number of people coming to the state to visit friends and relatives. And largely due to a poor snow year, the number skiing visitors also dropped.

Marketable trips, defined as travel that is influenced by marketing efforts and are not comprised of visitors who are visiting friends or relatives or business travelers, are considered an important measurement, as they are an indication of the success and effectiveness of the state’s marketing efforts. Spending on marketable leisure trips rose to $5.3 billion in 2011, a five percent increase over 2010.

White said the growth in the marketable trips segment helps show that the state’s marketing efforts are paying off.

“They have more money in their budget, they’re more willing to stay in a hotel, eat in a restaurant and spend a bit more,” White said, adding that the touring segment of the travel industry is also growing.

“Baby boomers are retiring, getting in their car and taking longer road trips,” he said, explaining that Colorado remains a favored destination for those types of trips, with the state’s outdoor activities ranking among the top attractions in the country.

In fact, outdoor, special event, mountain resort and casino trips all grew over 2010, while ski and city trips dropped. Touring trips and combined business-leisure travel were flat. Colorado continued to lead all states in the competitive overnight ski travel market, garnering just under 19 percent of all trips in 2011.

Overall, Colorado welcomed 57.9 million visitors in 2011, the most ever in the state’s history.  Total visitation increased less than one percent, but total domestic spending reached a record $10.76 billion, a healthy six percent increase over 2010.  Day trips to the state also increased by 10 percent in 2011 and spending by that group rose by four percent.

Colorado continued to lead all states in the competitive overnight ski travel market, garnering 18.6 percent of all trips in 2011. Colorado also maintained its ninth-place ranking in outdoor recreation, with backpacking, hiking, camping and national park visitation noted as the top outdoor recreation activities.

“We were extremely excited about the 2011 report, particularly with the gains in the marketable leisure segment, which confirms that we’re using our tourism funding effectively and with great success. It also underscores the importance of properly funding our state’s tourism product, as there is a clear connection between increased marketing funds and increased visitor spending,” said Al White, director of the Colorado Tourism Office.

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