Springs visitors need air service, marketing

Filed under: News |

Visitors to Colorado Springs are educated, affluent and travel savvy, according to the results of a marketing and advertising survey commissioned by Experience Colorado at Pike’s Peak, formerly the Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors’ Bureau.

But the survey also pointed out an area of concern: air service.

More than 70 percent of respondents indicated that air service affected their choice of where to travel.

Last week, Southwest Airlines chose to begin offering flights out of Denver. Colorado Springs had hoped to entice the airline to offer service here.

“We’re going to be looking at this more in depth,” said Dianne Perea, director of public relations and marketing for Experience Colorado Springs. “Colorado Springs has somewhat limited air service, we need to know if this is going to affect people’s decision to come here.”

The survey – the first to focus on the area since 1997 – followed a summer of heavy print and television advertising aimed at bringing leisure visitors to the Springs. According to the survey, the ads made an impression on families.

“Before the ad campaign, most of our visitors were older, people who travel three or more times a year,” Perea said. “After the campaign, more families indicated they had seen, read or heard about advertising in the area, up from 9 percent in the phase one study.”

In order to accurately gauge the effects of the advertising campaign, which builds on the “experience” in Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak region, Perea said the organization conducted a survey in February.

“We got some very good news: there are no negative perceptions about the city or the area,” Perea said.

The second phase determined whether the advertising campaign was successful in reaching audiences who had not previously considered a trip to the area. The survey pointed to opportunities to bring new and different types of travelers to the area.

More than 1,500 people responded to the first phase; 500 people responded to the second phase.

“We made an impact on families, but we also need to continue to focus advertising on the boomer generation,” Perea said.

While the study showed 97 percent of families enjoyed their visit to Colorado Springs in the summer, it also showed surprising results for the fall and spring – known as “shoulder seasons” in the tourism industry.

“We found out that we have a significant number of people who want to visit in the fall,” Perea said. “And that’s wonderful; we can definitely target our advertising to a more year-round audience. People are starting to realize that they can come here any time of the year.”

Experience Colorado Springs, which represents more than 700 tourism-industry businesses in the Pikes Peak region, spent much of 2005 gathering research, examining market trends and creating advertising strategies.

The marketing surveys come on the heels of a five-year strategic plan, finished earlier this summer.

“What we’ve learned is that we have an opportunity to promote things like hiking and camping here,” Perea said. “The survey showed that we can better educate people about the activities.”

Experience Colorado Springs needed the five-year plan, as well as the marketing studies, to address the changing environment in the area, said Michele Carver, executive director of Pikes Peak Country Attractions, a member of the Strategic Planning Committee.

“Colorado Springs is not a quaint little town nestled at the foot of Pikes Peak,” she said. “It’s a real urban area now, a city. We need to market it as such, change the way we’re doing things to reflect the city as it is today.” Carver admits that it is difficult to plan for the future in the tourism industry, because outside forces and a lack of promotion dollars can be different from season to season.

Experience Colorado Springs also has updated its Web site, www.experiencecoloradosprings.com.

Perea said the survey showed that 74 percent of visitors to Colorado Springs use the Internet to book their trips, but only 20 percent used the Experience Colorado Springs Web site. “That’s an area of opportunity for us,” she said.

The new site will be more interactive for visitors, with message board and information about how Experience Colorado Springs can help make planning their trip easier. The site includes a virtual Visitors’ Guide, a step up from the PDF format that required surfers to download and print the book.

“We want to start a two-way conversation with visitors,” she said. “We have so much we can offer – military and family reunions, wedding planning – we can do it all. We want to engage visitors on several levels.”

–amy.gillentine@csbj.com

Survey Results:
Phase 1 Phase 2
Family Travelers aware of Springs 9 percent 15 percent
Couple Travelers aware of Springs 12 percent 11 percent
Springs as a good place to visit 89 percent 97 percent
Couples likely to visit in fall 52 percent 59 percent
Couples likely to visit in spring 54 percent 59 percent
Awareness of attractions and activities(2)
Pikes Peak 78 percent
Air Force Academy 71 percent
Garden of the Gods Park 55 percent
Royal Gorge Bridge 53 percent
U.S. Olympic Training Center 45 percent
Cave of the Winds 39 percent
Broadmoor Resort 36 percent
Seven Falls 33 percent
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo 26 percent
Scenic beauty/scenic drives 64 percent
Outdoor activities 51 percent
Adventure activities 54 percent
Family activities 34 percent
Other(1) 5 percent
"Source: Experience Colorado Springs. 1) includes Focus on the Family, North Pole, Cripple Creek or Flying W Ranch. 2) after advertising campaign"