Restart Destinations Success Story: Visit Durango

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

  • convene tourism stakeholders to align on shared priorities for advancing sustainable tourism 
  • identify opportunities to build awareness of the value of tourism and the role of Visit Durango
  • increase local support for tourism-related initiatives

Located in the Mountains and Mesas travel region, the City of Durango boasts a historic downtown that provides a wide range of amenities for residents and visitors. The city is also home to the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad steam train that offers scenic tours through canyons and mountains. Surrounding La Plata County provides unparalleled access to the San Juan Mountains, the Animas River, and diverse outdoor recreation activities.

Visit Durango is the destination management and marketing organization for the City of Durango and La Plata County. Visit Durango is funded by the City of Durango 5.25% lodger’s tax and the 2% La Plata County lodging tax. As a result of the successful vote to increase the city lodging tax from 2% to 5.25% in April 2021, Visit Durango added a sustainability and policy manager to its staff in early 2022.

Visit Durango 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.

Visit Durango also convened a core team of local tourism stakeholders to provide input throughout the design and delivery of the program. Visit Durango 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 

Visit Durango supported the development of a recovery assessment consisting of background research, insights from residents and tourism stakeholders, and input from the core team.

Visit Durango convened 32 tourism stakeholders on December 8, 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 wide range of tourism stakeholders, including public officials, education providers, trails organizations, accommodations, attractions, retail, and restaurants.

Workshop participants engaged in a small group activity to align on the future changes they would like to see implemented that benefit the tourism industry in Durango and La Plata County. Overlapping themes from these discussions included increasing off-peak visitation, developing additional tourism workforce housing, enhancing transportation infrastructure and services (e.g. air service, walkability, shuttles), and building a sustainable tourism economy for visitors and residents.

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:

  • champion the value of tourism
  • give back to Durango 
  • target the conscientious traveler
  • enhance visitor experience 
  • advance tourism workforce

CRAFT Mentor Project Results

Following the workshop, Visit Durango 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 advance messaging tactics that champion the value of tourism, promote less-visited travel experiences, and foster responsible travel behaviors.

Project objectives included: 

  • enhance existing messaging for communicating the value of tourism 
  • create a messaging matrix that segments the value of tourism talking points for target audiences that include residents, stakeholders, and elected officials
  • develop recommendations for Visit Durango to inform visitors and stakeholders about ways they can reduce their carbon footprint 
  • identify less-visited traveler experiences in unincorporated La Plata County 

Visit Durango achieved the following results through the Restart Destinations Mentor project: 

  • talking points that highlight the positive impact Visit Durango and the tourism industry have on resident quality of life and the local economy 
  • messaging matrix that segments the value of tourism priority messages and talking points for target audiences
  • list of less-visited tourism assets in unincorporated La Plata County and two itinerary concepts featuring La Plata County exploration and experiences
  • recommendations for encouraging responsible travel, championing climate action, and reducing the carbon footprint of tourism
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.