According to the Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Colorado Tourism Office, statewide reports of the impact of legalized marijuana and tourism might not be entirely accurate.

 “… Surveys in October and November of potential summertime visitors who were exposed to the state’s tourism ads revealed that the marijuana laws influenced vacation decisions nearly 49 percent of the time,” the Denver Post reported Dec. 9, adding, “A study commissioned by the Colorado Tourism Office and presented to the office’s board of directors on Wednesday shows legal weed as a growing motivator for trips to Colorado — conflicting with the mantra of tourism officials statewide that savvy marketing alone is responsible for record visitation and spending in the past two years.”

Strategic Marketing and Research Insights, or SMARI, conducted the survey and presented its findings to the Colorado Tourism Office’s board of directors last week.

According to the Colorado Springs CVB, “a new question added to our latest SMARI survey asked Colorado visitors: ‘How much did the legalization of marijuana usage influence your decision to visit Colorado?’ Forty-eight percent of respondents said it was extremely to somewhat influential. Unfortunately, these responses were not broken out as positively or negatively influenced, so it cannot be stated that ‘nearly half’ of our tourists chose to visit due to marijuana.”

The Colorado Tourism Office spent more than $5 million to run television, print, billboard and digital ads nationally during the summer, reaching more than 11 million households, according to the Denver Post. The ads, however, made no reference to the booming cannabis industry. Carly Holbrook, spokesperson with the Colorado Tourism Office, said it is impossible to differentiate, based on the survey questions, whether Colorado marijuana laws positively or negatively influenced respondents’ decisions to visit the state.

Last week the Denver Post reported SMARI surveyed the public regarding marijuana tourism for the first time in 2014, and 65 percent of Colorado visitors did not consider legal weed in their decision to travel to the state. This year 20 percent of potential Colorado vacationers said marijuana laws meant they were more likely to book a vacation here while 15 percent said it would act as a deterrent.

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“SMARI conducted 33-question surveys of 3,254 tourists from target markets of Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, San Diego and St. Louis and other cities. About 10 percent of those surveyed had vacationed in Colorado between April and September,” the Post reported.

According to the Post, SMARI estimated this summer’s pot-free ad campaign influenced 2.1 million leisure trips, which generated a $2.6 billion economic impact on the state. More than one-fifth of SMARI’s survey respondents said marijuana was “extremely influential” in their decision to visit Colorado. Twenty percent said it was “very much influential.” Just fewer than 7 percent said it was “somewhat influential.” Eight percent of tourists, according to the Post, said they visited a marijuana dispensary during their trip to Colorado — a statistic that remains flat from last year, according to the survey.

“Each season, the Colorado Tourism Office contracts with Strategic Marketing and Research Insights to measure ad awareness, ad effectiveness and incremental travel generated by the CTO’s ad campaign,” according to the Colorado Springs CVB. “The primary purpose of this research is not to explore marijuana’s impact on tourism.  For the past two years, at the request of the Colorado Tourism Office, SMARI has included a few survey questions relating to the impact of legal marijuana on tourism. While this research has provided new insights, many questions remain about the impact of marijuana on Colorado travel. The CTO will continue its research to gain a deeper understanding into this traveler segment.”

The CVB said:

·  The latest SMARI report shows the percentage of visitors who stated they visited a marijuana dispensary during their trip was unchanged from last year at 8 percent.

·  However, 6.8 percent of those surveyed indicated the availability of marijuana was a primary trip motivator, up from 2 percent last year.

·  Travelers were asked if the legalization of marijuana would impact their decision to visit Colorado in the next year. About 65 percent of those polled said it would not affect their likelihood to visit.

·  Twenty percent of respondents said they are “more likely to visit” and 15 percent said “less likely to visit.”