More people are receiving their COVID-19 vaccinations and with that, tourism to the state is returning to pre-pandemic levels. As we responsibly welcome travelers back to Colorado, we must simultaneously promote and protect our cultural, environmental and economic assets.
Colorado is known for its beauty and the Colorado Tourism Office (CTO) is committed to protecting our beautiful state by integrating sustainable tourism into its long-term strategy. Since 2017, the CTO takes sustainable tourism into full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities.
Climate change continues to directly impact Colorado through changes in snowpack, heat, drought and wildfires. Local actions can help to minimize our impact on a global scale. The CTO recognizes that everyone in Colorado plays an important role to ensure our beautiful outdoors will be around for future generations to enjoy.
Developing the Care for Colorado program to protect our state
The Colorado Tourism Office created a first-of-its-kind partnership with the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics in 2018. Together, these organizations developed the Care for Colorado program which leverages a coalition of partners across the state to share important messaging about preserving and protecting our state’s natural resources.
The Care for Colorado program promotes seven principles for sustainability through carefully crafted messaging, graphics and videos. The seven Care for Colorado principles are:
- Know Before You Go
- Stick To Trails
- Leave It As You Find It
- Trash the Trash
- Be Careful With Fire
- Keep Wildlife Wild
- Share Our Parks & Trails
Visitors can learn how to Care for Colorado in the CTO’s “Are You Colo-Ready?” brochures, a collection of animated videos and publications, in all ten Colorado Welcome Centers and on the Care for Colorado microsite. The seven Care for Colorado Principles aim to inspire low-impact travel, from the care of Colorado trails and mindful interaction with wildlife to the use of refillable beverage containers. Visitors are also encouraged to “Do Colorado Right” and embrace the state’s new interpretation of responsible tourism — showing care not only for destinations but for others, including the people who call Colorado home.
Care for Colorado coalition members have committed to developing an education strategy around these principles aimed at encouraging their guests to be good stewards of the places they visit in Colorado, whether cultural or historic sites or waterways, trails, parks and open spaces.
The Care for Colorado program also creates monthly messaging for partners to share on their marketing channels about timely topics, such as water safety in the summer and avalanche risk in the winter. Interested communities can learn more about the Care for Colorado program, find messaging to share and learn how to become a coalition member at colorado.com/CareForColorado.
Other Colorado sustainable tourism efforts
Other efforts by the Colorado Tourism Office include electric vehicle byways and Colo-Road Trips.
Colo-Road Trips are a searchable, online collection of hundreds of multi-day itineraries aimed at inspiring travel in less-visited destinations and seasons. These Colo-Road Trips are a great way for travelers to find their way to lesser-known, fun and inspiring Colorado destinations. Search by your favorite activity, city or time of the year. Each multi-day trip idea includes great places to stay and eat and fun things to do, along with a “Sustainability Activity” and “Insider Tips,” giving visitors the downlow on traveling like a local.
The Colorado Scenic & Historic Byways microsite provides videos, photos, maps, itineraries and other inspiration for exploring Colorado’s 26 spectacular byways, more than any other state in the U.S. The Colorado Tourism Office has been working closely with the Colorado Energy Office to prioritize construction of electric vehicle charging stations along the state’s 26 Scenic and Historic Byways, which wind throughout Colorado. Six of the 26 byways are already available for electric-vehicle charging, with at least six more ready by late summer.
Integrating sustainability into your community’s tourism strategy
The CTO also supports the four pillars of sustainable tourism by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, developed in an effort to develop a common language about sustainability in tourism. These pillars guide communities and organizations to implementing a sustainable tourism strategy.
Pillar 1: Socio-Economic
Maximize social and economic benefits of the local community. Community leaders should ensure long-term benefits to residents through:
- transparency by publicizing long-term strategies and plans for tourism
- providing opportunity for community members to give input on tourism strategies and plans
- ensuring the availability of job and business opportunities to local residents at wages that match the current cost of living
- supporting local businesses by first using local products and services before looking outside of the community, region and/or Colorado
Pillar 2: Culture
Maximize benefits to communities, visitors and culture. Cultural assets should be protected as well as enhanced in a way that benefits the local community and educates visitors by:
- displaying accurate educational signage and information
- promoting and taking pride in the history and culture in a respectful manner
- ensuring the protection of cultural heritage sites
Pillar 3: Environment
In Colorado’s rural communities, the surrounding open space and wildlife is often the initial draw for tourism. For that reason, it is crucial to protect the environment and minimize impacts through management and sustainable behaviors, such as:
- ensuring building and properties are managed for energy efficiency, reduction of waste, low-impact landscaping and minimizing water usage
- providing opportunities for clients and guests to lessen their environmental impact and support local businesses and organizations
- creating tourism products that minimize impacts to the environment and wildlife while also creating educational and learning opportunities
Pillar 4: Management and Modeling
The key ingredient to a successful sustainability plan is effective management, which includes a plan to assess, implement and monitor. Communities should:
- develop a multi-year strategy that considers the community, culture and environment
- begin to monitor, report and evaluate this strategy to ensure its effectiveness
- create strategic plans to manage tourism seasonality
- ensure facilities and sites are accessible to individuals with disabilities
Colorado communities and partners can access more information about sustainable tourism and how to implement strategies for success by taking the Colorado Tourism Office’s free Sustainable Tourism course online at ctocraft.thinkific.com. The course identifies sustainable tourism best practices, assessment and implementation plans, how to market your sustainability efforts and case studies.
Tourism is one of Colorado’s largest employers and contributes more than $20 billion to Colorado’s economy each year. As the state’s lead destination marketing organization, we will continue to lead in supporting tourism while protecting the very things that make Colorado special.