Denver also set a new record of 12.7 million overnight trips for the year, compared to 12.1 million overnight trips in 2009. While staying in the Mile High City, overnight visitors spent $3 billion in 2010 on accommodations, food, retail, transportation and recreation.
"The really good news is that overnight travel to Colorado set a new record this year," said Michael Erdman, vice president of Longwoods International, at a press conference on Wednesday held at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. The Colorado Tourism Office and VISIT DENVER commissioned Erdman's research firm to perform a study on Colorado tourism.
Both business travel and leisure travel to Colorado rose since last year, including a 7% jump in business travel. The research firm breaks down leisure travel into two categories: marketable leisure travel and visits to friends and relatives. The tourism groups concentrate on marketable leisure travel to draw in visitors from other states.
The two largest out-of-state markets for Colorado tourism include Texas and California. Neighboring states of Arizona, New Mexico, Nebraska and Wyoming also factor into the picture, while far-flung states such as Florida and Illinois round out the top markets for Colorado.
However, the largest market for Colorado tourism still comes from in-state. Unfortunately, in-state visitors spend less than their out-of-state counterparts. Boosting tourism from other states can also boost the local economy, but Colorado's position as a "long-haul destination" presents a challenge, according to Erdman. "You've got to motivate people to travel 300 or 400 miles" to visit Colorado, Erdman said, unlike more populous regions in the U.S. such as the East Coast.
The other challenges facing Colorado include the higher cost of fuel this year, which Erdman said will impact airline fares, car rental prices and other transportation costs. "All of these are going to -- unfortunately -- help to depress demand," Erdman said.
Meanwhile, Colorado is focusing on promoting conventions to attract lucrative business travel. In 2010, the Colorado Convention Center hosted 75 conventions in Denver. According to VISIT DENVER, 2010 marked the second-best year for conventions in Denver history. However, the total overnight business trips to Denver fell to 1.8 million in 2010 from 2 million in the prior year.
Erdman praised Colorado for not cutting the budgets of the tourism offices during the recession, as many states have done. "There is a strong relationship between what you spend and what you get back in tourism," Erdman said. Last month, VISIT DENVER launched a $2 million advertising campaign titled "Denver’s Summer of Adventure.” The ad campaign includes radio, television and print ads, as well as billboards.
The summer ad campaign augments Colorado's position as the country's top-ranked ski destination. In 2010, Colorado retained a 20% share of all overnight ski trips, a slight increase from 2009. "We're very fortunate in the state of Colorado to have a year-round" sales opportunity, said Richard Scharf, president and CEO of VISIT DENVER.