State officials coming to Vail as part of discussion about future tourism ‘road map’
VAIL — It’s easy to think of the Vail Valley as its own world, but it’s actually part of a much bigger economic engine — the state’s tourism industry.
That’s why representatives of the Colorado Tourism Office are coming to Vail tomorrow as part of an eight-stop listening tour around the state. State tourism officials are rolling up hundreds of miles on that tour, heading from Fort Collins to Limon, from Pueblo to Salida, and from Vail to Durango.
That’s a diverse bunch of towns and cities, each with its own ideas about how to participate in Colorado’s second-largest industry.
The idea behind the tour is to gather information for a statewide plan for tourism. When finished, that plan will likely include ideas for spreading tourism’s impacts out beyond Denver and the state’s ski resorts to the less-visited parts of the state.
There seems to be plenty of business to spread around. The Colorado Tourism Office reports that for 2015, a record 77.7 million people visited the state. Those people spent $19.1 billion, another record.
A growing market
And, with an estimated 10,000 people per month moving to the Front Range, the in-state tourist market is growing quickly.
Of course, Vail doesn’t have much trouble attracting visitors, especially during peak times, but the valley could always use a few more customers.
Chris Romer leads the Vail Valley Partnership, the valleywide chamber of commerce. As part of that job, Romer also serves on state boards including the Colorado Association of Destination Marketing Associations. Serving on those boards, Romer is involved with statewide planning as well as his main job of drawing people to the Vail Valley.
The idea behind the current tourism office effort is to develop a business plan for tourism marketing for the whole state.
“There’s an immense opportunity to grow tourism,” Romer said, including both the state and the valley in that assessment.
Even at peak times in the Vail Valley, Romer said there are opportunities to ensure the resorts draw people who stay longer. People who stay longer spend more.
Outside those peak times, there are opportunities in terms of hotel occupancy and mountain use, he said.
Town of Vail Economic Development Director Kelli McDonald said while Vail has its own marketing district, that group takes advantage of statewide tourism promotion.
Working with the state office, promoters in the Vail Valley use those connections to promote the valley when the state group brings in journalists or hosts events in and around the Denver area.
“We take advantage of the (visits) that are right target for us,” McDonald said. “We want to know what they’re doing that we can leverage for us.”
The Vail Valley can also take advantage of location, being roughly in the middle of the state.
McDonald said conferences of statewide groups are usually better attended when those events are held here. Some, including the Colorado Municipal League, have held their annual events in and near Vail for several years.
Again, though, there’s always room for growth, and there are opportunities beyond the resort areas of the valley, including the downvalley areas.
Spreading the wealth
Amy Cassidy was recently the town of Eagle’s economic development coordinator. She’s easing out of that job, but intends to go to Thursday’s listening session to talk to state officials.
The town of Eagle’s 2015 budget for economic development was about $60,000. That money had to cover a range of efforts, and a budget that size doesn’t allow small towns to have any kind of “meaningful” presence in the state’s efforts.
“I want to hear what kind of ideas they have for places like us,” Cassidy said, suggesting that perhaps the state could help small towns form a kind of coalition to market themselves.
“Eagle’s on the map as an outdoor recreation destination, but it’s largely been through guerrilla marketing,” Cassidy said. And, while praising the work the tourism office does with its own comparatively limited budget — roughly $19 million per year — Cassidy said she’d like to learn how the tourism office can help Eagle and other towns attract some of those 10,000 new residents every month, as well as people from out of state.
Those new residents are “exploring their new backyard,” Cassidy said. “We want to be reaching those new people.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, firstname.lastname@example.org or @scottnmiller.