Tourism drops, but Grand County fares better than most mountain destinations | SkyHiNews.com

Tourism drops, but Grand County fares better than most mountain destinations

Tonya Bina
Sky-Hi Daily News
Grand County, Colorado

Regionally, travelers seem to be eschewing the airplane trips to tropical paradises, opting instead for vacation trips to mountain-town parades and mini-weekend overnights.

This may bode well for Grand County’s resort areas in a lingering economic slump.

In the first quarter, January, February and March, lodging occupancy rates in Grand County showed a decrease of about 3.5 percent from last year, according to the Grand County Tourism Board.

Although seeing fewer dollars spent in the county, tourism accommodations are faring well compared to other pricey, more remote mountain towns reflecting an average 18 percent lodging occupancy drop.

“We’re doing better than tourism in other mountain towns outside of Grand County,” said Karen Ruby, president of Signature Advertising, Denver, contracted by the Grand County Tourism Board.

“People are staying closer to home, and Grand County is benefiting from that.”

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Although once here, people likely are not spending as much as in the past, Ruby added.

In 2008, Colorado’s total day trips statewide increased by 7 percent, but total day trip spending was down by 2 percent. Those in the tourism industry are expecting 2009 to have fewer travelers, spending less than in 2008.

In a Reservation Activity Report produced by the Mountain Travel Research Program, Colorado mountain towns predict an average 20 percent decrease in lodging occupancy during the rest of the year.

But Grand County may see a more forgiving impact, Ruby predicted, due to its proximity to Denver and its affordability.

The Grand County Tourism Board budgeted a 10 percent decrease in 2009 lodging tax revenue compared to 2008, predicting a softer travel year. In doing so, first quarter totals of lodging-tax dollars showed ahead of budget by 3 percent, according to a report Tourism Board members presented to Grand County Commissioners last Tuesday.

The Grand County Tourism Board is working to capture the attention of potential vacationers by ramping up a social marketing campaign, utilizing text messaging promotions, Facebook and Twitter.

Billboards on I-70 and in Denver promote Grand County and ask viewers to text in for a free vacation in the mountains, a way to capture cell numbers for future Grand County promotions. Already, more than 800 texters have responded, according to Tourism board members.

Tapping into social marketing, Ruby told commissioners, is in part due to the rising adoption of Internet mobility by cell phone users. One in three mobile users are accessing Internet sites on their phones, she said, and one in three mobile subscribers between the ages of 18 and 34 have participated in a TV or radio text poll.

“An impressive average of 13 percent of people who receive an ad via text respond in some way,” Ruby said.

Meanwhile, the Tourism Board continues its print advertising, print marketing and public relations efforts, finding ways to have Grand County featured in visible publications, and on the minds of those craving a getaway.

– Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail tbina@skyhidailynews.com.

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