Colorado Springs tourism sees growth in 2011

The tourism industry packed a punch in Colorado Springs in 2011.

More than 5.5 million visitors to the Springs and El Paso County spent $1.2 billion.

Visitors came to such events as the U.S. Women’s Open, the USA Pro Cycling Challenge and the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.

Because of tourism, 11,000 people in the county had jobs. And, all of it was done for a promotional budget of $3.2 million.

The numbers were released Wednesday in the 2011 Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau’s 2011 stakeholders report.

The CVB’s aspiration is that Colorado Springs is recognized as the preeminent destination of the West, said Doug Price, CVB president and CEO. Every move the CVB makes rests on making that so, he said.

Tourism showed its strength in a 6 percent increase in the Lodgers and Automobile Rental Tax, Price said. The LART makes up 81 percent of the CVB’s $3 million budget. And more than 80 percent of the budget is spent on marketing programs to attract visitors to the area.

Groups spent $91 million on rooms in the county. Conventions accounted for 100,000 room nights booked; sports and special events accounted for 101,123 room nights; and tourism accounted for 10,440 room nights.

Price said it’s difficult to predict what 2012 holds for the tourism industry. But, the industry got a couple of good signs this week: the Colorado Senate Business, Labor and Technology Committee passed a film production bill that could create a loan guarantee program for movie production activity. The bill is making to the Senate Finance Committee; and the state will have $1 million more in 2013 to spend tourism, marketing the state as a destination.