State, local tourism campaigns work together
by the numbers
$897.8 million: Direct spending by tourists in Eagle County in 2013.
71.3 million: Number of tourist visits to Colorado in 2014.
$34.7 million: Eagle county tourism-related sales tax revenue in 2013.
$361: Tourist spending for every $1 in advertising money by the Colorado Tourism Office.
EAGLE COUNTY — Think of Colorado as a big house. Tourists come to the front door, and then have to decide which rooms to visit — Vail or Crested Butte, or Estes Park or Manitou Springs. In 2014, Colorado’s house was bustling, and plenty of people visited our room.
A recent report by the Colorado Tourism Office indicates that 2014 was a record year for tourism in the state. Both visitor numbers and spending hit new highs — 71.3 million visitors spent $18.6 billion, which resulted in $1.1 billion in sales tax revenue.
A good number of those visitors came to Eagle County — primarily Vail and Beaver Creek. The county-by-county numbers for 2014 aren’t yet published, but the 2013 numbers for the county were strong: Direct spending locally was $897.8 million. That number will be bigger for 2014, and farther still from the most recent low point — $677.3 million in 2009.
That spending supported nearly 6,900 jobs in 2013, and those people in aggregate earned more than $216 million.
Getting those people to Eagle County is the final step in a process that starts at the state level.
“We’re very much in alignment,” Vail Economic Development Director Kelli McDonald said of the state and local marketing efforts. Valley interests advertise in state tourism guides and on the state’s tourism website.
“We leverage, for sure, what the (tourism office) is doing,” McDonald said. “We like to think of ourselves as one of their gems.”
Beth Slifer, a longtime member of the Vail Local Marketing District Advisory Council, agreed that state and local efforts work well together these days.
“The state has worked very hard to get people to come, then left it up to destinations to finish the sale,” Slifer said.
That initial pitch from the state is the current “Come to Life” marketing campaign, in print and on the air in markets including Texas and Chicago. Beyond traditional outlets, the campaign is also all over the Internet, including on a dedicated YouTube channel.
Slifer is a big fan of those on-line resources. “Neither the state nor Vail has the resources for much beyond the digital efforts,” she said.
If you haven’t seen it, the campaign has taken a page from the Disney empire’s handbook, focusing on the experience, not specific events or attractions.
“When you see Disney ads, it’s never about the rides,” Vail Valley Partnership President Chris Romer said.
Vail and Vail Resorts take a similar approach with their Like Nothing on Earth and Not Exactly Roughing It campaigns.
That more personal approach is essential in turning tourism “want to” into “I’m going.” That’s important in Colorado, Romer said, since the state annually lands in the top five of states people want to visit, but its actual visitation doesn’t match the desire.
“That’s the opportunity for us,” Romer said. “We won’t bridge that gap with features and events. It’s the emotional connection, the feeling that I can create family memories.”
That’s where the joint effort comes in.
For instance, “visit Colorado” ads in Houston also hit a market that’s seeing ads encouraging people to catch a summer flight into the Eagle County Regional Airport.
“The tourism office puts Colorado in people’s mindset, so the first step is taken care of with us,” Romer said. “Then Vail comes in with Like Nothing on Earth, or people see targeted marketing online.”
Most of Colorado’s winter marketing is up to individual ski resorts. That’s why much of the state’s marketing push focuses on summer. But, McDonald said, marketing goes on all year to reinforce the state’s brand.
It’s a lot of work, and state, regional and local groups talk to one another a lot, McDonald said.
“There’s a lot of moving parts,” Romer said. “None of this is by accident.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, email@example.com or @scottnmiller.