Restart Destinations Success Story: Visit Estes Park

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

  • identify priority tourism investments that balance destination marketing, community engagement, and guest management
  • foster stronger communication and collaboration between Visit Estes Park, tourism stakeholders, and residents
  • convene tourism stakeholders to advance low-impact and responsible tourism activities

Located within the Denver and Cities of the Rockies travel region, Estes Park is the basecamp for Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) and is home to a diversity of outdoor recreation, wildlife, and scenic assets that surround a mountain community built on independent charm and hospitality.

VEP is the destination organization responsible for balancing marketing local assets and managing visitor experience in a way that optimizes tourism’s benefit to residential quality of life in Estes Park. VEP is accredited by Destinations International’s Destination Marketing Accreditation Program (DMAP) and receives funding through a 2% Local Marketing District lodging tax.

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

VEP also convened a core team of local tourism stakeholders to provide input throughout the design and delivery of the program. VEP hosted three 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

VEP supported the development of a recovery assessment consisting of background research and input from the core team.

VEP convened 20 tourism stakeholders on January 4, 2022 for a visioning and action planning workshop to review the recovery assessment and align on priority actions for advancing tourism in Estes Park. Workshop participants represented a wide range of tourism stakeholders, including VEP team members, VEP agencies, and members of the VEP board of directors that represented elected officials, community 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 that benefit the Estes Park tourism industry and further establish the value proposition of VEP. Overlapping themes from these discussions identified opportunities to champion the value of tourism, diversify visitor experience, encourage responsible visitation, and strengthen organizational stability. 

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
  • diversify visitor experience
  • encourage responsible visitation

CRAFT Mentor Project Results

Following the workshop, VEP 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 develop a framework for a destination strategic plan to guide VEP and its board of directors on ways to broaden VEP’s work plan from strictly destination marketing to include destination management.

Project objectives included:

  • develop a framework for a 2-year VEP destination strategic plan
  • develop an operational approach that helps VEP staff and board members better articulate their roles and the goals of the organization
  • draft a process for converting stakeholder engagement, community relationships, and VEP board and staff vision into a 5-year destination management plan

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

  • (draft) destination strategic plan for presentation and approval by VEP Board that includes:
    • conceptual framing of a board of directors field guide that provides standard education and onboarding for board members
    • proposed system and timeline for ongoing stakeholder and resident engagement to deliver more relevant communications on priorities and tactics
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.