Findings of 2019 Colorado Tourism Office Research

Statewide Visitation Up 2%, With Discretionary Leisure Travel Up 7%, highlights from “Colorado Travel Year 2019,” Longwoods International, June 2020

In 2019, Colorado welcomed a combined total of 86.9 million overnight and day visitors, up 2 percent from 2018. These included a record 39.0 million overnight visitors, up 3 percent from 37.8 million in 2018.

Day travel to and within Colorado also increased in 2019 to 47.9 million trips, up 1 percent from 2018. About 60 percent of Colorado day-trippers are Coloradans.

Overnight stays by discretionary leisure travelers — those targeted by tourism campaigns — were up to a record-high 20.9 million, a 7 percent increase from 2018. Colorado’s share of these travelers ticked up from 3.0 percent to 3.3 percent, retaining its ninth-place ranking even as other major vacation states lost share. In 2009, Colorado held the 18th-largest share of this valued travel segment.

In 2019, Colorado’s discretionary leisure traveler spent an average of $516 per person per trip, compared with $372 nationally.

Colorado’s highest-value discretionary travelers were people on ski trips, who spent $1,259 per person. Next were those on resort/golf trips ($528) and touring vacationers ($512). Outdoor travelers spent an average of $445.

The average length of a Colorado vacation trip fell from 5.0 nights in 2018 to 4.8 nights in 2019, still well above the typical U.S. leisure trip of 3.8 nights.

Colorado’s 78 percent visitor satisfaction rating continued to rank above the national norm, with especially high ratings for quality of attractions, accommodations, cleanliness, safety and security, and friendliness.

In 2019, Colorado remained the top U.S. destination for overnight ski trips, capturing 18.2 percent of those trips nationwide.

2019 Visitor Spending Up 7.3 Percent, Outpacing National Average of 4.3 Percent

Highlights from Colorado Travel Impacts, Dean Runyan Associates, June 2020 

Colorado travelers spent a record $24.2 billion in 2019, up 7.3 percent from 2018 and well above the national average increase of 4.3 percent.

Colorado’s 2019 travelers generated unprecedented tax receipts of $1.494 billion, up 7.9 percent from 2018. Of the total, 61 percent, or $905 million, goes to local governments. Replacing those revenues would have cost each Colorado household $707 in additional taxes last year. 

Travel spending also directly supported a record-high 181,200 jobs, up 3.1 percent from 2018 and well above the national average increase of 1.1 percent.

Colorado travelers spent $4.996 billion last year on lodging, generating $574.8 million in state and local taxes, up 9.2 percent from 2018. For 2020, however, Oxford Economics currently projects that Colorado lodging taxes will decline by $253 million.

CTO’s Winter Campaign, “Wow!,” Returns Highest ROI Ever

Highlights from “2019-20 Winter Advertising Effectiveness,” Strategic Marketing and Research Insights, May 2020

The CTO’s most recent winter campaign, “Wow!,” directly influenced $1.73 billion in visitor spending across Colorado, 9 percent more than the prior winter campaign, despite a suddenly abbreviated ski season. 

The return on investment was a record-breaking $826 for every $1 spent on paid media, the highest ROI ever for a CTO marketing campaign. 

CTO research found the campaign also influenced another 107,500 visitors who would have spent an extra $206 million had they not canceled their Colorado winter travel plans.

Overall, the CTO’s “Come to Life” marketing campaigns from April 1, 2019, through mid-March, 2020, returned $450 in spending for every $1 in paid media. This outcome once again placed Colorado’s marketing program in the top 10 percent nationally for return on investment.

Colorado continues to be viewed as a leader in destination stewardship. In a survey of more than 2,500 winter travelers across the U.S, 81 percent gave Colorado, Alaska and British Columbia top marks for protecting and preserving natural resources, with a handful of other western states also rated as doing well.

The importance of Colorado’s attention to sustainability increased sharply last winter. A total of 28 percent of visitors said Colorado’s sustainability efforts were “very important,” up from 19 percent in winter 2018-19. Sustainability is especially important to travelers under age 35. 

Out-of-Staters Who Visit Major Parks, Arrive By Air Stay Longer

Highlights from Colorado 2019 Visitation Profile, Arrivalist, June 2020

In 2019, two thirds of measured trips to Colorado’s major national parks were from out-of-state residents. On average, those visitors stayed in Colorado more than twice as long (3 days/22 hours) as the average visitor (1 day/19 hours).

Those arriving on flights spent nearly two days longer in Colorado than the average visitor (3 days/14 hours compared with 1 day/19 hours).

About 25 percent of out-of-state visitors stopped in Denver County, making it the top-visited county, followed by Arapahoe, Jefferson, El Paso and Larimer counties.

About 13 percent of in-state visitors went to Denver County, again making it the most visited county, followed by Summit, El Paso, Larimer and Arapahoe counties. 

Coloradans were most likely to take a trip of three days or more in Colorado, accounting for 18 percent of these trips in 2019. Also topping the list for extended stays were visitors from Texas, California, Florida, Illinois and Kansas.

2020 started out strong, with visitor volume up by 2.1 percent in January and 9.6 percent in February. Since COVID-19 containment in mid-March, travel volume has declined sharply. Compared with 2019, Colorado visitor volume was down 47.4 percent in March, 73.8 percent in April and 40.4 percent in May. 

Colorado’s International Visitation Up Slightly, While U.S. Numbers Fall

Highlights from "International Market Data and Analysis for Colorado," Tourism Economics, June 2020

Colorado attracted 1.053 million international visitors in 2019, slightly more than the 1.048 million who came in 2018, even as U.S. inbound international visitation fell 0.6 percent last year.

Those international travelers spent $1.8 billion, a slight decline from the $1.83 billion spent in 2018, largely due to a dropoff in travelers from Canada and Asia. 

Overseas visitors accounted for the lion’s share of spending with 637,678 travelers spending $1.49 billion.

Inbound travel from Colorado’s largest market, Mexico, was up 1.6 percent but spending fell nearly 2.5 percent. Travel and spending from second-largest Canada fell sharply, with visitation down by 4.5 percent and spending down almost 9 percent.

Per trip spending by visitors from Mexico and Canada, which contribute about 40 percent of the state’s international visitors, is more similar to that of US visitors. Mexico’s 224,254 visitors in 2019 spent $799 per trip, while Canada’s 191,403 visitors spent $677 per trip.