Thursday, January 21, 2016

Tourism is on the rise

Posted By on Thu, Jan 21, 2016 at 2:06 PM

click to enlarge Cathy Ritter is excited to sell Colorado. - J. ADRIAN STANLEY
  • J. Adrian Stanley
  • Cathy Ritter is excited to sell Colorado.
Colorado State Tourism Office Director Cathy Ritter offered encouraging news at a breakfast this morning at Springs Orleans.

Ritter is new to her position and is currently touring the state. She previously worked in private industry and was the State Tourism Director of the Illinois Bureau of Tourism from 1999 to 2003. She moved to Colorado in July from Washington D.C.

Ritter noted that Colorado rates 5th or 6th in states that people would most like to visit, but is the 17th most visited state. She aims to close that gap. A recent national ad campaign called "come to life" has been a part of that effort. It features beautiful photos, inspiring phrases, and poetic writing. Normally, she says, the state advertises in target markets, but additional funding from the state legislature enabled a larger reach this past year. 

Apparently, it worked. Ritter noted that the state saw a 64 percent increase trips that were influenced by marketing (an additional 2.5 million trips).

That follows a general uptick in visits to Colorado. While 2015 numbers are not yet available, Ritter says that in 2014, Colorado saw a record 71.3 million visitors.  El Paso County visitors alone spent $1.2 billion.

Aside from major campaigns, Ritter says the state: offers local tourism offices matching grants; has volunteer-driven welcome centers along the borders; is No. 1 in spending on agrotourism promotion and marketing; does innovative social media marketing; and pursues press coverage about Colorado travel. Press coverage of the state is thought to have been worth $42 million in fiscal year 2015. It generated 1.4 billion impressions.

Ritter says she will be working with communities to develop a blueprint for generating tourism across the state. She put together a similar plan for Illinois during her time there, focusing heavily on community meetings. She says the approach worked.

"Everybody got it, and it was everybody's plan," she says. 

Ritter is spending a few days in the area touring some of our top destinations. She said she's been impressed by Pikes Peak, the Air Force Academy and the United States Olympics facilities, among other attractions. She also expressed excitement about Gov. John Hickenlooper's recent "16 in 2016" announcement, that he'll be working to complete or build 16 top trail projects this year. Among the 16 is the long-unfinished Ring the Peak trail that circles Pikes Peak.

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