A representative from the state’s tourism office was the in the Springs this week, pitching the return-on-investment for tourism promotion money as the state’s General Assembly begins the grim business of deciding where to cut the budget in order to meet an expected multi-million dollar shortfall.
Kathy Ritter, director of the Colorado Tourism Office, told the breakfast crowd of tourism leaders Thursday that the return on investment in Colorado for the tourism industry reached 13,000 percent last year. With a public relations budget of $320,000, the Colorado Tourism Office estimated the value of the marketing it performed to be $42 million.
The office operates with a $19 million budget, most of which comes from the state’s gambling industry. Other sources are the state general fund and its unclaimed property fund.
Ritter will appear before the state legislature next week, encouraging elected officials to continue to fund tourism.
“The challenges to tourism funding are very real,” Ritter said. Ritter spent three days in Colorado Springs, meeting people, seeing tourist sites and visiting the Air Force Academy. “Because of a variety of factors, legislators are faced with some very hard choices this year. The state general fund is shrinking year after year and that is going to mean cuts to the budget every year, in a state with a population that is exploding. If tourism funding is cut, if our ability to promote this state is reduced, we’re actually going to be cutting revenue for the state.”
The state tourism office allows tourist destinations and groups to adopt the office’s Facebook and Instagram accounts for a certain time period. Loaning its marketing platforms to areas around the state gets rural and destination resort areas in front of people considering a trip to Colorado.
She gave other suggestions to local tourism marketers, including suggesting vistors take selfies in front of tourist attractions here — Garden of the Gods Park, Cave of the Winds, Pikes Peak — and post them to the Twitter feed #LiveColorado.
But they do more than social media promotion. The CTO sponsors familiarization trips for international journalists to various destinations in the state, “pushing them to places that they might not experience on their own,” she said.
“The natural place for an international journalist is, ‘Oh, let’s go to Denver and we’ll go to all of those restaurants in those nearby attractions.’ So we’ll say, ‘Have you ever thought about …?’ So we take them on journeys through our state, exposing them to experiences,” they may not see on their own, Ritter said.
Recreational marijuana is not part of the sales pitch, she said.
“It would be a federal violation for us to spend state dollars in that regard because it’s illegal,” Ritter said. “We still have a lot to learn about how marijuana affects tourism to Colorado. We do know it’s motivating to a small segment of traveler.”
However, the main motivations for people to visit the state have not changed, Ritter said.
“The main reason people visit our state are to experience the state and national parks, the scenic byways, hiking and backpacking and heritage sites,” she said. “Unless something changes, that will always be the core.”