Huerfano County, in the Mystic San Luis Valley travel region, was awarded a Colorado Rural Academy for Tourism (CRAFT) Recovery Mentor program by the Colorado Tourism Office in fall 2020 to advance recovery efforts related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The objective of this CRAFT Mentor program was to encourage more responsible visitation within the county by engaging tourism stakeholders to identify priority visitor impacts that can be mitigated through strategic messaging and creating a plan to collaboratively distribute responsible visitation messages to reduce those impacts from future visitors.
In 2007, Huerfano County successfully enacted a new tourism lodging tax. Under the guidance of Huerfano County, the Huerfano County Tourism Board administers those funds and, together with a broad group of stakeholders, promotes the destination as “Spanish Peaks Country,” a tribute to the distinctive twin peaks that watch over the County. The Huerfano County Tourism Board manages SpanishPeaksCountry.com, and implements marketing activities that include social media, public relations, content marketing and advertising.
CRAFT Recovery Mentor Program Results
Huerfano County was paired with Hilary Lewkowitz, a CRAFT Mentor with experience in rural tourism development, stakeholder engagement, sustainable tourism and destination marketing, to achieve the following outcomes:
- Facilitation of a virtual focus group for Huerfano County land managers, conservation organizations and tourism-related businesses to discuss priority public land impacts from the 2020 summer season.
- Participation in a virtual focus group for Huerfano County tourism stakeholders that was hosted by Huerfano County to build awareness of this project and align on available resources to encourage responsible visitation in the county.
- Development, distribution, and analysis of an online survey for Huerfano County tourism stakeholders to inform priority visitor impacts from the 2020 summer season.
- Facilitation of a virtual focus group that brought participants from the two previous focus groups together to identify how each stakeholder communicates with visitors before, during and after trips and explore collaborative messaging strategies to encourage responsible visitation.
- Delivery of a Huerfano County Visitor Impacts Focus Group and Online Survey Summary Report that synthesizes public land manager and tourism stakeholder observations of visitor impacts.
- Delivery of Huerfano County visitor communications resource map that identifies each stakeholder’s capabilities to encourage responsible visitation.
- Delivery of a Responsible Recreation Messaging Framework and Inventory that provides the foundation for stakeholders to encourage responsible visitation in Huerfano County.
“Huerfano County looks forward to using the roadmap, developed as part of the CRAFT program, to further our goals around sustainable and responsible tourism. We aim to continue the engagement with tourism stakeholders and land managers towards our goals.” - Carl Young, Huerfano County
About CRAFT Recovery Mentor
The Colorado Tourism Office developed the Colorado Rural Academy For Tourism (CRAFT) to support communities across the state integrate tourism into their economic development strategies and develop new visitor experiences aimed at attracting increased traveler spending.
The CRAFT Recovery Mentor program provides up to 50 hours of mentoring for Colorado tourism partners to advance one or more tourism strategies that bolsters their response to a recent crisis or natural disaster.