Tourism leaders from across the state will meet in Durango for the first Southwest Tourism Summit.

The summit, hosted by the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, will be April 5-6 and is dubbed “The Source” because it aims to provide businesses and organizations with seminars, workshops and presentations by tourism industry professionals from around the state in one place, at one time.

“I would go to the governor’s conference on tourism, and I would get so much information and then I would get an opportunity to network with the leaders in our industry, and I come back and I hang onto all the information and it never goes past me,” said Carrie Whitley, Durango & Silverson Narrow Gauge Railroad sales manager and one of the event organizers. “It really should be something that everyone has an opportunity to know about it.”

Whitley said that the summit is for more than tourism industry leaders. She hopes the summit will attract T-shirt shop owners and small business owners who want to learn more about tourism and how to grow their business to cater to tourists.

The summit is getting inquiries from tourism folks and businesses across the state, not just the southwest region, she said.

“The point is, we are not competing with the governor’s conference,” she said. “That is geared for people in the industy. What we are doing is for anybody . . . if you are a somebody who is thinking about what opportunities you have in  advertising, then this is a place for you.”

- Advertisement -

Some of the expected presentations will come from Al White, director of the Colorado Tourism Office; Tour Colorado; Grand Circle Travel Association; Southwest Colorado Travel Region; Durango Area Tourism Office; Durango Chamber of Commerce and Durango Business Improvement District.

Tourism leaders are expected to discuss public relations and marketing, familiarization tours, agri-tourism, Internet technology and heritage tourism.

Heritage tourism – destinations oriented toward cultural heritage of the location – could be the next big wave of tourism in Colorado, said Brent Green, CEO of Brent Green & Associates and an expert in generational marketing. Green spoke at a recent summit in Colorado Springs on the topic of aging and said heritage tourism will be a hot topic among the baby boomers, who are 77 million strong and looking for experiences rather than just vacations.

In a recent survey of baby boomers, 96 percent said they want to keep active. Green identified a sub-group within the baby boomers as those seeking “Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability” or LOHAS values. This could be a big area for the Colorado tourism industry to explore, he said. About 26 million people ages 47 to 66 are among those seeking LOHAS values.

“Last year, they spent $400 billion,” he said.

For details about the summit, contact Carrie Whitley, sales manager at the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, at 970-385-8842 or