Restart Destinations Success Story: Mesa Verde County Tourism Office

The Mesa Verde Country Tourism Office (MVC) was approved to participate in the Restart Destinations Program by the Colorado Tourism Office in July 2021. Program objectives included: 

  • identify opportunities to build awareness of Mesa Verde Country’s cultural tourism experiences
  • assess the feasibility of new interpretation programs, such as a podcast series, in conjunction with local tourism partners

Located in Mountains and Mesas, Mesa Verde Country includes the communities of Cortez, Dolores, and Mancos, as well as Towaoc, which is located on the Ute Mountain Ute tribal lands. Together these locations represent unique launch points to access the rich cultural heritage, vast public lands, scenic byways, and liquid arts that distinguish Montezuma County.

MVC serves as the marketing, education, and management advocate on behalf of the City of Cortez and Montezuma County’s tourism industry. The organization has a mission to strengthen the area’s competitive position through the development and promotion of new visitor experiences and is funded through partial receipt of a City of Cortez 2% lodging tax as well as a 1.9% Montezuma County lodging tax. 

MVC was paired with Mimi Mather, a CRAFT Workshop Facilitator with experience in destination management, tourism development, and creative communications, to develop a recovery assessment and facilitate a full-day community visioning and action planning workshop.

MVC also convened a core team of local tourism stakeholders to provide input throughout the design and delivery of the program. MVC hosted two core team meetings to identify priority barriers and opportunities for advancing tourism, discuss the findings from the recovery assessment, and guide workshop design.

Recovery Assessment and Workshop Results 

MVC supported the development of a recovery assessment consisting of background research, a visitor profile study, insight from tourism stakeholders, and input from the core team.

MVC convened seven tourism stakeholders on Dec 7, 2021 for a community visioning and action planning workshop to review the recovery assessment and align on priority actions for driving near-term recovery and long-term resilience. Workshop participants represented a range of tourism stakeholders, including accommodations, the local radio station (KSJD), podcast producers, and retail. 

Workshop participants engaged in a visioning exercise to align on the future changes they would like to see implemented that benefit the tourism industry in Montezuma County. Themes from this discussion included welcoming a greater diversity of travelers throughout the year, presenting a diversity of places to explore, attracting responsible travelers, and increasing dining, retail, and outdoor recreation opportunities.

As a result of the workshop discussions, participants aligned on key priorities and action items to inform the development of a recovery action plan. Key priorities include:

  • share Mesa Verde Country's stories
  • support the launch of the Field Work podcast
  • advance tourism workforce

CRAFT Mentor Project Results

Following the workshop, MVC was paired with Mimi Mather, a CRAFT Mentor with experience in destination management, tourism development, and creative communications, to deliver 75 hours of free consulting to conduct the activities listed below.

The purpose of this Restart Destinations Mentor project was to develop place-based stories to increase awareness of Montezuma County’s unique cultural and natural heritage.

Project objectives included: 

  • develop recommendations to promote KSJD’s Fieldwork podcast
  • develop a survey to solicit story ideas from Montezuma County residents 
  • develop three digital stories that showcase local travel assets
  • research and write four audio stories for future use in digital storytelling
  • explore potential partnerships with digital storytelling platforms to create and distribute place-based audio content

MVC achieved the following results through the Restart Destinations Mentor project:

  • messaging and tactics to promote KSJD’s Fieldwork podcast to stakeholders and visitors 
  • survey for collecting digital storytelling ideas to inform MVC on future storytelling projects 
  • three digital stories that highlight art, archaeology, and winter activities in Montezuma County
  • storytelling toolkit that includes five draft audio stories, ideas for additional audio stories, and pricing from TravelStorys and Autio
CRAFT Recovery assistance for Tourism

About Restart Destinations Program

The Restart Destinations Program supports Colorado tourism destinations to drive faster recovery as they emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic. Awarded destinations receive a recovery assessment, a full-day recovery workshop, 75 hours of customized technical assistance, and $10,000 in direct marketing support from the Colorado Tourism Office. This program was made possible by a CARES Act Recovery Assistance grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration.