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Panel Discusses How to Grow Tourism in Southeast Colorado

SECED Tourism Meeting

 

The tourist industry in Colorado is growing and motivated local municipal leaders and Prowers County residents are seeking ways to share in that new revenue. SECED, Southeast Colorado Enterprise Development hosted a second meeting at its West Elm Street address this past Wednesday, January 30th to address those concerns.  The first prioritized housing development in the county.

The Colorado Tourism Office noted the state hosted a record 86 million visitors in 2017 that spent nearly $21 billion during their in-state travels which accounted for $1.21 billion in state and local tax revenues. That same report indicated nearly one in seven tourists visited the Western Slope Region, while one in twenty visited the Eastern Plains or San Luis Valley.

The meeting participants focused on two aspects of how to generate more visitors to our area. Chris Wilkinson, who helped develop a failed local ballot initiative for a 4% bed tax to help increase tourist visitors to Lamar, canvassed the group.  “We missed passing this ballot by about 87 votes November before last.  Had it been approved, about $250,000 could have been raised to hire an employee to generate visitors through conventions, begin seeking grants to finance a convention center and focus on getting tourists to come in our direction,” he said, adding, “Years ago, we used to get statewide conventions to come to Lamar like the Colorado Fireman’s Convention and that just isn’t happening anymore.”

Chad Hart, who serves on the Prowers County Lodging Tax Panel, suggested that the ballot initiative be studied for another try, rephrasing the question so as to downplay the idea of a tax in the wording. The Lodging Tax Panel derives its annual funding from a 2% motel room tax in the county.  It was thought that the original wording may have confused the voter into feeling residents would automatically be subject to the tax, when it was the renter of the motel room who pays.  Most communities through the state already levy some form of a motel/hotel tax used for tourism purposes.  The ballot question would have raised an additional 4% for tourism oriented funds for Lamar which could have been spent in a less restrictive manner than the Panel’s by-laws allow.

On a more local level, there was general agreement that better forms of communication be developed for a comprehensive listing of all the activities that are held in the county through the year, week by week and month by month. The Lamar Chamber of Commerce is a local information clearinghouse, but Chamber President, Kendra Buchanan, said it’s hard to develop an annual event calendar when that information isn’t being offered by local groups, “Until they pick a specific date for their event and let us know, we can’t fill in that blank.”

Community involvement, when it comes to keeping visitors up to date on local events, was acknowledged as important, but it’s a topic that’s been hashed and rehashed at other, similar meetings. The emphasis there was to be sure to keep employees that deal with the public informed and motivated to share that information with any visitors passing through the community.  The City of Lamar recently hired Martha Alvarez in a new position of Communications Director.  Part of her duties includes updating the city website and connecting with various organizations for information.

Over a decade ago, the Lamar Chamber Honkers and some chamber directors began a welcoming committee which, when notified about a group of visitors to the Lamar area, would greet them, offer some general information about the community, invite any questions and most importantly, thank them for choosing Lamar for either a visit or just an overnight accommodation. The SECED meeting group believed resurrecting a similar organization would have merit.  That and other topics will be addressed at a February meeting to be determined.

By Russ Baldwin

 

 

Filed Under: City of GranadaCity of HollyCity of LamarCity of WileyConsumer IssuesCountyEconomyEntertainmentFeaturedRecreationTourism

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