Vail Daily column: Thanks to Colorado Tourism Office | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily column: Thanks to Colorado Tourism Office

You may have seen the recent announcement from the Colorado Tourism Office showing that Colorado set all time records in terms of visitor volume, visitor expenditures and tax revenue in 2014.

As we know in the Vail Valley, tourism is big business; the CTO announcement showed that Colorado welcomed 71.3 million visitors to the state who spent $18.6 billion and generated $1.1 billion in tax revenue. This is the fourth consecutive year the CTO has seen record-setting growth. The announcement came as part of the release of several studies detailing visitation and spending in Colorado, as well as the effectiveness and impact of the state's Come To Life marketing campaign.

Gov. John Hickenlooper, a long-time supporter of the tourism industry, had this to say: "These outstanding results prove once again that tourism is one of the top drivers of positive economic impact and job growth in Colorado. Our state is privileged to have so many innovative tourism-related businesses and hard-working employees who create experiences that truly set Colorado apart on the national and international stage. It is important that we continue to invest in our tourism industry and showcase why Colorado is such a special place for travelers from across the globe."

Gov. Hickenlooper is right, of course. Tourism is big business, and not just in the mountain region. The tourism industry generated $1.1 billion in local and state tax revenues in 2014, surpassing the billion-dollar mark for the first time ever. This represented approximately $215 of tax revenue per person in the state or $860 for a family of four. Without tourism, each resident would pay $215 more in taxes (Source: Colorado Travel Impacts 2014, Dean Runyon & Associates).

“These outstanding results prove once again that tourism is one of the top drivers of positive economic impact and job growth in Colorado. Our state is privileged to have so many innovative tourism-related businesses and hard-working employees who create experiences that truly set Colorado apart on the national and international stage. It is important that we continue to invest in our tourism industry and showcase why Colorado is such a special place for travelers from across the globe.”John HickenlooperGovernor

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DRIVING EFFORTS FORWARD

These types of results don't happen by accident. The board of directors for the Colorado Tourism Office is filled with a diverse, statewide representative sample of tourism leaders and destination marketing professionals volunteering their time and expertise to help drive our state efforts forward. The CTO staff is small but mighty (it's a fraction of the size of our competitive set state tourism organizations) and they are dedicated to driving awareness and visitation to our state. The tourism industry deserves recognition as well; the industry collaborates through industry associations (Hotel & Lodging Association, Tourism Industry Association of Colorado, Colorado Association of Destination Marketing Organizations, Colorado Ski Country USA, among others), private businesses, local destination marketing efforts and others to leverage the state tourism efforts and increase the positive benefits of tourism to the state.

The CTO drives the top of the sales funnel through a strategic effort to drive awareness of Colorado as a vacation destination. After all, you need to invite people to come visit — these things don't happen by accident, and we face immense competition for discretionary vacation dollars from well-funded states such as Florida, California and Michigan.

NEW OPPORTUNITIES

Successful efforts (in business, in sports and in government) require strong and visionary leadership at the top. The Colorado Tourism Office, and the entire tourism industry in Colorado, has been blessed with the leadership of Al White for the past few years. I've known Al dating back to his days as our state representative and later our state senator, and I have the good fortune to call him my friend.

The Colorado Office of Economic Development & International Trade, of which the CTO falls under, recently announced some staffing updates including shifting Al into a new role — from executive director of the CTO to a newly created legislative role on behalf of the entire office. This move certainly leverages Al's history and knowledge of the state legislature to benefit our economic development efforts. Change is inevitable and this change presents new opportunities for the CTO to continue to build and grow the strong foundation for tourism that Al has spent so many years building.

So while we're celebrating the success of Colorado's tourism efforts, increased visitor spending and strong results that help drive Colorado's economy, let's be sure to take a moment to extend a special thanks to Al White. His vision and passion for Colorado's tourism industry is unmatched, and while he's not going away and will continue to be an advocate for tourism in our great state, he leaves huge shoes to fill for the incoming CTO director.

Thank you, Colorado Tourism Office, for your success and efforts in promoting our great state. And thank you, Al White, for being a champion for this industry that helps make our state economy among the best in the nation.

Chris Romer is president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership.