Colorado Springs tourism for 2001 experiences mild downturn

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From the Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau’s new location at 515 S. Cascade Avenue, Terry Sullivan met with local media earlier this week. He addressed the summer’s tourism statistics for the Pikes Peak region and distributed the results of the organization’s 2000 Conversion Study, conducted by area attractions and accommodations.

According to Sullivan, of those CSCVB accommodations that responded, most rated their summer performance as “good” or “fair.” Last year at this time, local hotels, motels, and inns reported their 2000 summer to be “good” or “very good.” Area attractions that responded rated their summer performance as “good” or “fair”

“If we’d just had nine or ten Labor Day weekends, we would have had a great summer,” Sullivan noted. Thanks to the USAFA-OU football game during parents weekend along with the Colorado Springs Balloon Classic and beautiful weather, every hotel and motel in the Colorado Springs-Woodland Park-Cripple Creek area was full.” Pointing out that one CSCVB office handled inquiries and promoted to youth sports, Olympic and other and athletic organizations, generating $17 million in revenues last year, Sullivan is optimistic. “We are an 83% ‘rubber tire’ destination,” says Sullivan, “but we have solid support from the sports community. We are definitely trying to bring more soccer, basketball, volleyball, hockey and other regional and national events to Colorado Springs. But sports alone will not keep heads in beds.”

Sullivan also discussed results from the 2000 Conversion Study. Participants in the study included visitors randomly surveyed by area attractions and accommodations personnel.

Among those responding, most popular reasons for coming to the area included “scenic drives” and “outdoor attractions.”

49% of those visiting the Pikes Peak region had been here before. 46% had friends or relatives in the area.

80% came by auto. 15% came by plane, with the remaining 5% coming by camper or bus.

A total of 72% of vacationers stayed 5 nights or more

23% of visitors stayed 1-2 nights. 37% stayed 3-4 nights. 32% stayed 5 nights or more.

While staying in Colorado Springs, 72% visited Denver, the mountains or “elsewhere”.

The most popular months for visitors were June/July (64%). Only 1% visited during January/February.

Activities completed by visitors while in the Pikes Peak region included: 84% scenic drives; 55% shopping; 45% historical sites or landmarks; and 32% hiking.

According to Sullivan, the study points up a need to reinforce local outdoor attractions to tourism and business travel with construction of a central convention center “In an economic downturn, such as the one we’re experiencing, a convention center can stabilize our visitor numbers,” he pointed out. “I am a member of the national Vietnam helicopter pilots organization — and they contacted me about the possibility of holding a meeting here in Colorado Springs. I searched community-wide and we ended up having to move the meeting to Denver. There just isn’t a place in Colorado Springs that can host more than 1200 people at a time, and the helicopter association had more than 2200 members attending. It was very frustrating,” concluded Sullivan.

Current trends indicate that visitor numbers will continue to decline. Sullivan said that years of work ahead on I-25 threaten to make Colorado Springs and Southern Colorado known as a “cone zone” — a deadly moniker for a community that draws tourists in automobiles. “We’ll see visitor numbers improve once gas prices stabilize, the economy improves and we can improve our air transportation into Colorado Springs,” he said.

The Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau receives $2.6 million annually from the City of Colorado Springs, generated by the local lodging and auto rental tax — as well as $560,000 from membership dues and another $25,000 from El Paso County.