She is the CEO of iManitou, a multifaceted organization that combines the chamber of commerce, visitors bureau and economic development office for the City of Manitou Springs, a tourist town filled with opportunity – and these days, challenges.
Fire and flood have threatened its summer tourism seasons both last year and this year.
It’s Morrison’s job to represent the business owners harmed by the disasters — and market the town and keep the crowds coming.
She took some time this week to talk to the Business Journal about her job.
How did Manitou’s summer season shape up? How much effect did the flooding have on tourism overall?
The summer season definitely started well. Our merchants saw an increase in visitors from last year and our hopes were definitely high. However, for the second straight summer Mother Nature dealt Manitou a tough hand, and the floods definitely took a toll on our visitor traffic. Manitou is a great day-trip for our neighbors in the Denver metro area and the Pikes Peak area and we rely on them to support our merchants and attractions. Denver media, especially TV, gave Manitou quite a bit of exposure during the July/August flooding, and that was both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, the coverage demonstrated the severity and challenges that our community was, and is, continuing to face, but it also discouraged visitors.
However, for the second straight summer Mother Nature dealt Manitou a tough hand, and the floods definitely took a toll on our visitor traffic.
How is morale among merchants? Are they remaining resilient in the face of fire and flood? How many are taking advantage of the SBA’s disaster assistance?
Our merchants are resilient. They are committed to our community. In fact we like to say that they exemplify the term MANITUDE. That being said, they could use a break from Mother Nature’s antics, and would very much appreciate the greater community’s support this fall. Manitou is beautiful during the fall, so come and enjoy our restaurants, galleries and shops and maybe spend a long weekend. Take a short, medium or long hike or walk/run the Incline, and then come into town and taste our mineral springs and enjoy the Manitou experience.
As far as whether merchants are taking advantage of the SBA disaster assistance, iManitou is not privy to that kind of information. That is a financial decision that generally remains private, but we’re glad that it is available to them. The agency has been aggressive in reaching out to those who might need assistance. There have been numerous meetings sponsored by the City of Manitou Springs and other organizations to keep citizens informed.
How have the city’s marketing efforts changed during the last two years? Are they likely to change moving forward?
Manitou has and will continue to ramp up its marketing efforts. We are a jewel that is easy to access from both Highway 24 and Interstate 25. However, we acknowledge that Manitou competes with other communities throughout the state for in-state and out-of-state visitors who have a finite amount of time and resources and so make strategic choices about where to visit. iManitou recently contracted with a local PR agency to assist us in recovering from the flood/fire messages that have dominated the media. Because it is a local firm, they understand how important it is to our community that Manitou has strong fall and holiday seasons. In our crystal ball, we would like our city to be a year-round destination for both residents and visitors.
How’s the new parking system working out? Are retailers and visitors acclimating?
Change is always difficult, and I guess the term acclimating is right on target. Many of our visitors are very used to a paid parking system that the city has implemented. In many other tourist towns throughout the state, it is very common for the parking to be restricted to a paid lot or at a metered space. Certainly, it is a change for our local residents and it will take some time for everyone to get used to it. Look, I’ve lived in Manitou 50 years and I, too, liked to pop in and out of my car to do errands, visit one of my favorite restaurants or shops. We did know that visitors were leaving town after not being able to park and our residents that live in the downtown area and in the vicinity of the Cog Railroad could not find parking for their own vehicles. If I can adapt at my age, you know what I’m going to say next. I am optimistic that others can too.
What events are on tap this fall and winter?
Manitou offers some of the most creative, fun and shall we say “spirited” events in this state. We all know Manitou is a special and colorful place, and our events demonstrate the creativity of this community. This weekend, Friday, Sept. 20 through Sunday, Sept. 22, Everyone is invited to our Artwalk Weekend as well as a “We’ve got Manitude Block Party.” Come check out live music and special celebratory surprises at Manitou’s businesses.
Next month, Manitou hosts our famous and, frankly, really fun annual Emma Crawford Coffin Race on Oct. 26. Also, with the resurgence in popularity of zombies and ghosts, Manitou Springs Heritage Center is once again sponsoring ghost tours and Miramont Castle is hosting “Emma’s Wake.” Check out our website at www.manitousprings.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.