When the national media shows coverage of the fire in the mountains west of Colorado Springs, they’re telling people Colorado is on fire – and that just isn’t the case, according to a handful of tourism officials, elected officials, and even the Mayor of Manitou Springs.
But, that’s not to say the fire is not devastating to those impacted by it, but people shouldn’t let it change their vacation plans, said Lyda Hill of the Garden of the Gods Visitor Center.
News of the Hayman fire has already had an effect on the tourism season, but it’s not too late to change the impression that Colorado is burning.
More than six million people visit the Colorado Springs/Pikes Peak region each year, spending $817 million dollars. The city realizes 21 percent of its annual revenue from tourism, and it provides jobs for about 14,000 people.
“We don’t want to downplay the damage,” said Colorado Springs Vice Mayor Lionel Rivera, at a news conference at the Garden of the Gods Visitor Center. “Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak region are not impacted by the ire.”
Manitou Springs Mayor Marci Morrison urged people to see her city, where there are “real springs.” All of that city’s springs are now running and have been spiffed up for the summer season.
“We feel if we can get the message out to people who live here, then they can tell friends and relatives and it will help,” Morrison said.
El Paso County Commissioner Jeri Howells said the county has 70 miles of trails, several parks and two nature centers, and that so far none have been impacted by the blazes.
Salvaging the tourist season is critical to the region’s economy, still recovering from the terrorist attacks of last September.
According to the Colorado Tourism Board, tourism is Colorado’s second-largest industry, and represents 12 percent of the area’s total economy.
“The Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau is pleased to report that Colorado Springs, the Pikes Peak region and the entire Colorado tourism industry are open for the business, despite the fires that are raging throughout various portions of the state,” said CSCV President and chief executive officer Terry Sullivan.
“While the Colorado wildfires certainly require a level of awareness for all Coloradoans and visitors to our state, the CSCVB is pleased to report that Pikes Peak region accommodations and attractions, including Pikes Peak, the Royal Gorge and Cripple Creek are open and welcoming tourists. Hotels, restaurants, area attractions and all tourism-related businesses are open for business as normal,” said Terry Sullivan, president and CEO of the Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau. “The swimming pools are full of water awaiting the plunge of visitors to our area,” said Sullivan.
Colorado has 103,000 square miles, Sullivan said. Colorado wildfires affect about 400 square miles, he added.
Colorado Springs councilperson Sallie Clark also urged people to let their friends and relatives know the area is not being impacted by the fires.
“We are open for business,” said Clark, who also owns a bed and breakfast inn in Colorado Springs.
Additional information about the fires can be obtained from several websites, but the site www.colorado.com has links to several other sites with information about possible closures and location of the fires. Another site is the CSCVB site at www.coloradosprings-travel.com.