Labor Day weekend set to cap ‘great’ summer tourism season

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The telephone is ringing off the hook at the Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau with callers in search of hotel rooms for this Labor Day weekend.

“People are saying, ‘I need help finding a room,’ ” said Chelsy Murphy, CVB spokeswoman. “It’s fabulous.”

On Thursday morning there were still some hotels reporting vacancies, but not many.

Embassy Suites at 7290 Commerce Center Drive., for example, had its 206 rooms booked Friday through Monday, said Dusti Butaud, director of sales and marketing. The community, she said, does a fantastic job running events over the three-day weekend, including the U.S. Air Force Academy’s “Parents’ Weekend” and first home football game and the 35th Annual Colorado Balloon Classic.

“It’s a combination of Parents Weekend and the Balloon Classic,” Butaud said. “And, it looks like a lot of folks are still doing stay-cations. We have a high volume of folks from a 45-mile radius.”

Across the country, the traveling trend is to stay in the U.S. for summer’s last long weekend. And, Colorado Springs is among the most popular destinations this Labor Day weekend for customers using Priceline.com, according to its Top 50 labor Day list, released this month. The Springs ranks No. 39 on the list.

It all adds up to filled hotel rooms and millions of dollars spent in Colorado Springs. The U.S. Air Force Academy estimates that Parents Weekend has a$7.5 million economic impact and officials of the Colorado Balloon Classic estimate their event brings in $56 million to the region.

The Labor Day weekend tops off a great summer of filled hotel rooms and spending in Colorado Springs, said Doug Price, CVB president and CEO.

Colorado Springs was host to major events this summer including the U.S. Women’s Open at The Broadmoor, the 2011 Rocky Mountain State Games, the 89th Pikes Peak International Hill Climb and the U.S. Pro Cycling Challenge bike race.

In June and July, the Lodger’s and Auto Rental Tax, was up 4.4 percent and 4.85 percent over last June and July. August figures have not been released.

And, the money spent in the Springs isn’t just going to pay for hotel rooms. In July, restaurants collected 5.73 percent more in sales taxes than last July and clothing stores also saw a 5.98 percent jump in sales tax collections this July over last July, according to Colorado Springs Sales Tax Division.

“July was great,” Price said. “The city had predicted a 3 percent increase in LART – to be at close to 5 percent is a good indicator of the economy.”

Colorado Balloon Classic president Patsy Buchwald is expecting about 250,000 spectators to this weekend’s events, which begins at 7 a.m. Saturday at Memorial Park.

“They come from all over the world,” she said, including an Asian television crew which arrives Saturday.

This year’s Balloon Classic features 64 balloons and the Colorado Vertical, based at Colorado Springs Airport, is bringing back its popular helicopter rides for $50 per person.

“I’m always grateful and fascinated and wowed,” Buchwald said. “When I come to my small office, we are here on the phones . . . and it all comes together, it’s still magical even after all these years.”