Restart Destinations Success Story: Visit Colorado Springs

Visit Colorado Springs (VCOS) was approved to participate in the Restart Destinations Program by the Colorado Tourism Office in July 2021. Program objectives included: 

  • convene local tourism stakeholders to align on strategies that assist Visit Colorado Springs continue to reach underserved and diverse audiences
  • build awareness of the importance of reflecting diversity, equity, and inclusion across all facets of the visitor economy

VCOS is a destination marketing organization that is based in Colorado Springs and has a mandate to inspire travel throughout El Paso, Fremont, and Teller counties. The organization works in collaboration with other local destination marketing organizations to target marketing for families, groups, and business travel. VCOS receives funding through a portion of the City of Colorado Springs' lodging and auto rental tax collections as well as contributions from El Paso County. The organization also raises revenue through its partnerships programs.

The three-county area offers a diverse mix of urban activities with easy access to soft and hard outdoor adventure. Primary tourism communities include Colorado Springs, Old Colorado City, Manitou Springs, Fountain, Monument, Palmer Lake, Cripple Creek, Victor, Woodland Park, Divide, Green Mountain Falls, Cañon City and the Royal Gorge Region. Key attractions include Pikes Peak - America’s Mountain, the Garden of the Gods Park, the U.S. Airforce Academy, and the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum.

VCOS was paired with Tina Valdecanas and David Holder, principals at Clarity of Place, a consulting firm with experience in destination marketing, organizational efficiency, and tourism development, to develop a recovery assessment and facilitate a community visioning and action planning workshop.

VCOS also convened a core team of local tourism leaders to provide input throughout the design and delivery of the program. VCOS hosted three core team meetings to identify priority barriers and opportunities for fostering more inclusive travel opportunities for underserved and diverse audiences, discuss the findings from the recovery assessment, and guide workshop design.

Recovery Assessment and Workshop Results 

VCOS supported the development of a recovery assessment consisting of background research, a visitor profile study, tourism stakeholder insights, and input from the core team. The findings from the assessment were compiled into a report that informed the design of the full-day workshop.

VCOS convened 23 tourism stakeholders on November 18, 2021 for a community visioning and action planning workshop to review the recovery assessment and align on priority actions to foster more inclusive travel opportunities for underserved and diverse audiences. Workshop participants represented a wide range of tourism and community stakeholders, including representatives from hotels, restaurants, the U.S. Air Force Academy, the City of Colorado Springs, the local cultural affairs office, attractions, and arts and cultural organizations.

Workshop participants engaged in a small group activity to align on the future changes they would like to see implemented to make tourism in El Paso, Fremont, and Teller counties more inclusive. Overlapping themes from these discussions included increasing visitation from underserved and diverse markets, establishing more consistent DEI practices among visitor-facing businesses, and expanding authentic messaging around the totality of local experiences for residents and visitors to enjoy.

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:

  • foster inclusive travel by providing industry leadership and through tourism marketing
  • advance tourism workforce understanding of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives
  • establish the Pikes Peak Wonders travel region as a destination that delivers on the expectation of a welcoming environment for all visitors  

CRAFT Mentor Project Results

Following the workshop, VCOS was paired with Clarity of Place, a CRAFT Mentor with experience in destination marketing and management, and tourism advocacy, to deliver 75 hours of free consulting to conduct the activities listed below.

The purpose of this Restart Destinations Mentor project was to build a comprehensive overview of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives to help guide future VCOS decision making and strategies.

Project objectives included:

  • compile research and stakeholder input to support implementation of a comprehensive DEI commitment
  • produce a draft a series of recommended action steps and strategies for VCOS to advance and improve upon its DEI initiatives
  • develop a draft a framework to assist VCOS to leverage and communicate DEI initiatives with its visitors, industry partners, and local residents

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

  • recommended action steps and strategies for the VCOS DEI committee that includes: 
    • purpose and vision statements
    • organizational recommendations for board development, staff development, and community relations
    • programmatic recommendations for video and image content, target audiences, research and metrics, and tourism product development
    • engagement recommendations for community priorities, industry relations, and workforce development
  • communication mapping recommendations for advancing regional stakeholder engagement with DEI
    • recommendations include a specific goal to build upon benchmark findings from VCOS’ partnership with RISE (Report of Inclusive Spending Efforts) 
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.