Tourism executive sees recovery season for Springs

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A native of Colorado Springs, Michele Carvell has been executive director of Pikes Peak Country Attractions Association since 1999. Prior to that, she was executive director of the Manitou Springs Chamber of Commerce from 1990 to 1998. She was instrumental in increasing tourism to Manitou, and helping to brand the town as a fun, quirky place to visit. As part of that effort, she created two annual events that have made Manitou memorable: The Great Fruitcake Toss and the Emma Crawford Coffin Races.

How much of a recovery year will 2011 be for the tourism industry?

It will be a mild recovery year. As far as the attractions are concerned, we’ve had two good summers, in 2009 and 2010, so I see some growth. The last really great years, according to our members, were the mid-90s. There have been a lot of challenges, whether it was the Hayman fire or Sept. 11. Since then there have been down years. I think our members are happy if they are even or up 2 to 3 percent. I see that continued growth, but I don’t see us going back to the glory days of tourism. Certainly, the impact of the Internet affected tourism. There’s a whole new world out there for people to explore. Also the competition within the state. We compete with mountain resorts for summer business. That didn’t used to be a factor. There was summer tourism and winter tourism, and we were summer. Now they have wisely realized they can expand their product to include summer tourism, so there’s a lot of competition. And even though it snows on Jan. 10, there’s no ski resort in the Pikes Peak region, so we have to make the most of May through October.

What do you hope that Doug Price, the new CEO of the Convention and Visitors Bureau, will be able to do for the region?

I hope Doug brings some great new ideas, some new fresh ideas. It’s not so much marketing and promotion. I think it’s a new approach to the market; a new approach to what we are, and again, that he’s a part of the effort to come up with a brand. I’d like to see him lead the effort, because I think he’s that kind of a person.

What’s your next big initiative at Pikes Peak Country Attractions?

Our next big initiative, really, is to expand our online ticketing — to bring in more online partners — to bring in more partners in accommodations, so that a guest can actually purchase the whole online package, the room, what you’re going to do while you’re here.

What’s your favorite attraction outside of this region?

My favorite attraction outside of this region is Rocky Mountain National Park. I just am awed by its beauty, by its seasons, by its wildlife, and by its accessibility. I just think it’s gorgeous. I’ve seen elk, coyote, deer.

Audio excerpt of the interview with Michele Carvell.