Pike bicentennial offers ‘heritage’ opportunity

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The 200th anniversary of Zebulon Pike’s expedition in the region will bring an opportunity to tap an underserved tourism niche, said Dianne Perea, marketing and public relations director for Experience Colorado Springs, formerly the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.

“Heritage tourists could be a big market for us,” Perea said. “And this is a great opportunity for tourism businesses to reach those tourists. Studies show that heritage tourists spend more and stay longer.”

Heritage tourists are visitors who travel to an area based on its history and culture.

According to a survey of potential visitors conducted after an active summer advertising campaign, heritage experiences are important to the group of people most likely to visit Colorado Springs.

“Potential Colorado Springs visitors think about travel in a sophisticated way, and they are looking for a destination to match their tastes,” the survey concluded. Perea said Pike’s bicentennial anniversary is only one way to capitalize on bringing these tourists to the area.

With its rich history, scenery and military tradition, Colorado Springs is an ideal location for many of those visitors, she said.

Three attractions in Colorado Springs are included in the top 10 list of heritage sites in the state: Manitou Springs, Pikes Peak and the Air Force Academy.

Pikes Peak Country Attractions, an organization that represents tourist destinations in El Paso, Teller and Fremont counties, also is counting on the anniversary to bolster tourism in Colorado Springs. While visitor levels rose last year, the rise followed a three-year decline.

“We had a great year, particularly in July, but tourism is affected by so many outside things: weather, terrorism, gas prices – this is really the biggest thing that can help bring more visitors here,” said Michele Carver, executive director of the organization. “It’s something that puts us in the national spotlight. It will bring recognition, not only to the region, but to Pike himself. He often gets overlooked, and he did so much at such a young age.”

In the coming months, Experience Colorado Springs is spearheading a community-wide effort to commemorate the Pike anniversary.

“We’re asking businesses to let us know what their plans are, how they plan to highlight the upcoming anniversary,” Perea said. “We want to market it throughout the year, and are coordinating a nationwide marketing campaign.”