5:10am

Thu July 26, 2012
Business

Fort Collins And Estes Park Struggle To Attract Tourists

Following the devastation of two wildfires this summer, the convention and visitors’ bureaus in Fort Collins and Estes Park are ramping up marketing campaigns to attract tourists. KUNC's Emily Boyer spoke with Northern Colorado Business Report Publisher Jeff Nuttall about their plans.

Boyer:This summer’s High Park and Woodland Heights wildfires burned tens of thousands of acres and destroyed more than 250 homes in Larimer County. Tell us about the effect those wildfires are having on the region’s tourism business?

Nuttall:Well, as we know, both fires broke out in June, during what should have been a period of high tourism traffic, but evacuations, closed roads and thick smoke all worked to keep visitors from coming to either destination.

National media coverage spread the news about the fires, and soon reservations were being canceled and the CVBs were fielding phone calls from confused would-be tourists, especially those from other parts of the country.

The Woodland Heights Fire did burn homes near the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, which is Estes Park’s biggest draw. That area gets 3 million visitors a year.

Fort Collins also suffered from misconceptions on a national level, though the weeks-long High Park Fire did close down some tourism-related businesses. Rafting companies were forced to close and the Mishawaka amphitheater shut down, postponing shows.

Not only did these businesses lose money, but employees lost weeks of pay when they were unable to get to work.

Boyer:How are the Fort Collins and Estes Park tourism bureaus working to counteract all the misconceptions that are out there?

Nuttall:Well, they’re upping their spending, primarily. Estes Park had already budgeted to spend $400,000 on marketing this summer, but has approved an additional $75,000. The Fort Collins CVB will increase its marketing spending from $40,000 to $100,000.

Boyer: This is really a change for Estes Park it’s normally quite a draw for tourists. How is the bureau planning to spend that extra 75-thousand dollars that they’ve added to their marketing budget?

Nuttall:Estes Park is planning on spending the extra dollars on a series of advertisements to bring in Coloradans and out-of-state residents alike.

The new marketing plan will include radio and television spots, ads in the online version of the Denver Post and other papers, and ads in national consumer publications.

Some of the TV ads are running in the Denver and Colorado Springs markets, with time slots purchased during the Olympic Games to maximize the number of viewers who see the ads.

Television and Internet ads also are being purchased in cities like Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska, and Kansas City and Wichita, Kansas.

Boyer:What about Fort Collins? Will their tourism bureau also target out-of-state travelers?

Nuttall:The Fort Collins CVB runs on a much smaller budget, so it needs to get the most bang for its buck. CVB Executive Director Jim Clark said they are working to let the rest of the state know that Fort Collins is open for business.

In addition to radio and television spots, Clark and his team are using social media to get the word out that Fort Collins is back and ready for tourists.

The CVB’s social media following has increased 20% since the fire broke out, and the organization has an intern working to produce Facebook posts and tweets multiple times a day.

Whether all of this extra effort works to put heads in beds – as those in the hotel business put it – will be clear after summer ends.

Jeff Nutall is the publisher of the Northern Colorado Business Report.

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