‘Staycation’ business could see a decline this year

Filed under: Daily News,Tourism |

“Staycations,” always popular when the economy dips, helped pull the region’s hospitality industry through the recession.

Staycations, of course, have long been an area staple, but became especially critical when the fuel crisis hit three summers ago, followed six months later by the start of the downturn.

This season, those in the tourism industry hope staycations will remain strong.

“We’ve found that the ‘vacation in your own backyard’ speaks well to (people in) Denver and locals because of the assets we have here,” said Dianne Perea, website, marketing and communications director at Pikes Peak Country Attractions. “They make this their base camp and spend several days here and then visit other places in Colorado.”

But how well will that end of the business hold up?

“I see the in-state market as being softer this year. Certainly it boosted business last year,” said Michele Carvell, executive director of the group. “Our concern this year is that Colorado’s economy is still suffering.

“Typically Colorado is behind what’s happening on either coast.”

The good news is that so far requests for visitor’s guides and reservations at the agency’s member attractions show that out-of-state interest is higher than in 2009.

“We are definitely seeing improvement. It may be the case that out-of-state will keep us at the same level as last year, and in that case everyone would be thrilled,” Carvell said.

Experience Colorado Springs, the convention and visitor’s bureau, focused its marketing efforts on the in-state market during the downturn.

Nowadays, amid signs that travel is increasing, the organization is spending more time and money marketing to “feeder markets,” said Chelsy Murphy, the bureau’s public relations manager.

Those areas include Dallas and Kansas City.

The region is an 85-percent “drive market,” she said, so the number of out-of-state travelers depends heavily on the cost of fuel.

Barring a sharp increase in gas prices, “We expect to see more out-of-state traffic to the area (than) previous years,” Murphy said.

Zoo adds exhibit

In 2006, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo added its Australia Exhibit. To make way for the new exhibit, a building that housed the zoo’s naked mole rats was demolished. The rats were sent to other zoos around the country.

Local and regional children, however, have now had a say in bringing them back.

A new naked mole rat exhibit is going up in the Primate World building, and the grand opening is May 14.

“We’ve gotten (many) requests for the naked mole rats. Kids love to see them — they’re so ugly, they’re cute,” said Sean Anglum, public relations manager for the zoo.

Naked mole rats are hairless, three to six inches long, with wrinkly grayish-pink or pink skin, no visible ears, tiny eyes and large incisors.

“They look like a pink, hairless burrito with teeth,” Anglum said.

People are “amazed” by the rats’ social structure, which is unique.

The mole rats are mammals and live underground, but they are the only mammal group that has the social order of insects.

They have a queen, with about three suitors, and that’s how they breed, Anglum said. The rats also have “soldiers” that protect the group, and workers that dig. Others sweep the dirt behind them. A third group of workers, called “volcanoes,” push the dirt up and out of the holes.

Frequent-flier miles

The Frontier and Midwest airlines merger will take about 18 months.

Meanwhile, people are wondering about their accumulated frequent-flier miles.

Nothing will change, at least not right away, said Frontier spokeswoman Lindsey Purves. “They (the airlines) will integrate (frequent-flier programs) later on in 2010 — and no miles will be lost for Midwest miles account holders. They will just be transferred over to the Frontier program.”

Once Frontier’s EarlyReturns and Midwest Miles programs are fully integrated, fliers can combine all miles accumulated in both programs into a single account.

Rebecca Tonn can be reached at rebecca.tonn@csbj.com or 719-329-5229.