Front Range supports Glenwood tourism through tough times
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” The Front Range is sustaining Glenwood Springs tourism through national uncertainty over the economy and the soaring cost of gas, and continues to be the main source of the sector’s business, a city marketing official said.
About 85 percent Glenwood’s tourists are visiting from the other side of the Rocky Mountains, said Kate Collins, vice president of tourism and marketing for the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association.
“That has proven to be sustaining once again for Glenwood Springs in the face of this uncertain economy and rising fuel prices,” she said. “We haven’t had a tremendous dip in visitation in 2008. Our tourism economy remains strong in the face of an uncertain economy.”
Collins spoke to the Glenwood Springs City Council on Thursday while presenting highlights of the chamber’s $665,006 budget for 2009 and its marketing plan. The budget figure originates from the city’s finance department and is based on projected occupancy rates, tax revenues and other factors.
Mayor Bruce Christensen said the budget looks good and said he would support approving it as financial planning moves forward. Collins said occupancy rates for the first seven months of 2008 are down 2.2 percent over the previous year. But the average daily rate is up $8.10 so far over last year at $107 per night to stay in Glenwood Springs. And accommodations tax revenues have grown 1.9 percent over 2007 for the same period.
“It’s not looking like the last two years where we had 20 percent growth in tourism,” she said. “But I don’t think any of us expected that pace of growth to continue, and I think we can all feel reassured and happy that in this environment we’re maintaining versus declining.”
In an interview after the presentation, Collins said tourism destinations that rely on air travel have faced even more uncertainty.
Some City Council members said Collins has been doing a great job with marketing. But they said they’d like to speak to the tourism board about using tourism promotion funds for certain things downtown such as Christmas lights, beautification and clean-up. The chamber and tourism board administer the tourism promotion fund, which comes from 80 percent of a 2.5 percent accommodations tax on shortterm lodging.
Councilor Kris Chadwick, who is on the tourism board, said the city decided two years ago to take the remaining 20 percent of the accommodations tax revenues and give it to a financial advisory board to distribute grants for infrastructure, capital improvements and events. “The overarching idea is, ‘Well, there’s the 20 percent that could fund the Christmas lights and some of these other things,'” Chadwick said.
Collins said after the presentation that benefits of spending on tourism marketing may seem intangible, but, especially in difficult economic times, the city must maintain a strong marketing presence in the minds of tourism customers.
Tourism had an economic impact of about $160 million for Glenwood Springs in 2007 based on accommodations taxes and tourism-related retail activity, Collins said.
The figure relies on the assumption that a third of all retail sales are generated by tourism. The city determined that ratio in a 2002 study. A budget of $725,000 last year is a good investment for the $ 160 million economic return to the city, Collins said.
During her presentation to the City Council, Collins said a central reservations website and calling center did about $404,000 in new business for Glenwood Springs after being online for one year as of June.
“We had $36 million in lodging revenue sales in 2007 so we do kind of look at this $400,000, possibly $1 million in this next year with our central reservations, as some incremental growth for that business,” she said. She said the new whitewater park and Rio Grande Trail have brought lots of attention to the city. Glenwood Springs has appeared in Field and Stream Magazine as the nation’s top fishing town.
It appeared in a story in The New York Times, which also did a segment on the Rio Grande Trail. National Geographic Traveler, National Geographic Adventure, Conde Nast Traveler, USA Today and the ” Today Show” also gave Glenwood some exposure, Collins said.
“The list goes on and on,” she said. “We’ve had about 500 articles and placements due to our public relations efforts.”
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