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CTO Hosts Regional Listening Sessions for Tourism Development

Cathy Rittter, Executive Director of CTO

Cathy Rittter, Executive Director of CTO

Cathy Ritter, Director of the Colorado Tourism Office, held a listening session in Lamar, which combined facts detailing the demographics of tourists who visit the state each year with comments from residents on what could attract visitors to their section of the state.

Lamar was one of numerous stops planned by the Tourism Office and Office of Economic Development and International Trade. Members of the Lamar State Welcome Center, plus some 50 Prowers County residents met with Ritter at the Cultural Events Center on Thursday, October 6th to discuss ways to attract more visitors to the state and southeast Colorado.

“What we want to do is capitalize of the strengths we currently offer, not invent new reasons to have tourists come to our area,” Ritter explained. She added that by networking communities to highlight their unique appeal to tourists, the door is open for visits to more than just one town or city.  “Some of our reports indicated tourist interest in hot springs.  We spoke to various towns that have hot springs spas and followed up by developing a website that lists as many as two dozen communities that feature them in the state.  Now, we can market a hot springs loop incorporating all those towns and attract more visitors to capitalize their interest in that niche,” she told the audience.

Ritter discussed in-state and out-of-state tourists and the need to increase Colorado’s marketing budget for attracting more visitors, just to stay abreast of competing states, such as New Mexico or Arizona which have be increasing their advertising campaigns to lure more visitors away from Colorado. “Although our budget is at $19M, we’re falling behind these other states in our region,” she explained.    She pointed out that Colorado spends $3M a year to attract film crews to shoot movies here.  “We’re in competition with the New Mexico Film Board that has a $55M budget to attract movies to their state.”

Chad Hart, President of Canyons & Plains

Chad Hart, President of Canyons & Plains

Tourism is a major economic driver for Colorado, especially for skiers. “The average visitor spends $1,315 on a ski trip and right now we lead the nation with 20% of the market, followed by California with 11%,” she explained.  The age groups that spend the most money during their visits are the 55-65 year old bracket, followed by 65-Plus and after that it’s the 18-24 crowd.  “We aren’t seeing a lot from the millennial group at this point,” she stated.  Another trend shows that visits to Colorado have recently decreased among western state residents, but are increasing from the Pacific Northwest and the northeastern sections of the country.

Ritter noted that some visitor’s, mostly those from the northeast, are unprepared for the distances they encounter between cities and towns. “That’s another reason why we need to combine area attractions for an overnight or day visit.  Another area that can help is we all become, ‘Colorado Concierges’, able to tell visitors about current events or places of interest when they enter our businesses, such as motels, restaurants or even convenience stores,” she said.

By Russ Baldwin

Filed Under: AgricultureConsumer IssuesCountyEconomyEntertainmentFeaturedTourismTransportation

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