Restart Destinations Success Story: Visit La Junta

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

  • regain the positive tourism momentum Visit La Junta experienced prior to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • advance the collaboration between Visit La Junta and the Colorado Tourism Office that began in 2018 
  • create a marketing, advertising, and public relations plan to assist Visit La Junta launch its new brand 
  • convene tourism stakeholders to align on priorities for recovering lost lodging tax revenue resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic

 Located in the Canyons & Plains region, La Junta means “the junction” in Spanish. Native Americans, Spanish explorers, trappers, gold seekers, immigrants, settlers, farmers, and ranchers each contributed something to the colorful mix of cultures that comprise present day La Junta. Cultural, heritage, creative arts, and adventure tourism attractions such as the Koshare Museum, Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site, Otero Museum, Comanche National Grassland, Picketwire and Vogel Canyons, and the Picketwire Center for the Performing Arts are located in or around La Junta.

Visit La Junta aims to creatively leverage, highlight, and emphasize the City of La Junta and all it has to offer in tourism, the arts, and events as a way to enhance the experiences of residents and visitors to La Junta and the surrounding region. The La Junta Tourism Advisory Board manages the 4.5% tax on lodging facilities enacted in 2010. 

Visit La Junta was paired with Amy Cassidy, a CRAFT Workshop Facilitator with experience in tourism and outdoor recreation development, strategic planning, marketing, and communications for emerging and established destinations throughout Colorado, to develop a recovery assessment and facilitate a full-day community visioning and action planning workshop.

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

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

Visit La Junta convened 19 tourism stakeholders on November 9, 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 elected officials, city of La Junta staff, economic development personnel, tourism board members, attractions staff, small business owners, public land managers, educators, and media.

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 La Junta. Overlapping themes from these discussions included:

  • key advancements in adventure tourism product development
  • improved visitor readiness at existing attractions
  • increased availability of guides and outfitters 
  • increased community awareness and pride in La Junta
  • creation of successful, large-scale events, sports tournaments, and festivals
  • improved tourism and transportation infrastructure

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:

  • increase overnight visitation to La Junta 
  • develop and enhance visitor experience
  • improve stakeholder communication and collaboration
  • champion the value of tourism through increased community and stakeholder education and engagement 

CRAFT Mentor Project Results

Following the workshop, Visit La Junta was paired with Amy Cassidy, a CRAFT Mentor with experience in strategic planning, marketing and communications, and tourism and outdoor recreation development, to deliver 75 hours of free consulting to conduct the activities listed below.

The purpose of this Restart Destinations Mentor project was to create a marketing plan that drives an increase in year-round overnight visitation to La Junta, and increases local awareness of and support for the tourism economy. 

Project objectives included: 

  • coordinate with the Visit La Junta Tourism Director and the La Junta Tourism Advisory Board to develop consumer marketing strategies for the destination marketing plan
  • develop the internal communications strategies for the marketing plan to champion the value of tourism with elected officials, tourism stakeholders, and residents
  • attend two La Junta Tourism Advisory Board meetings (virtually) to present elements of the marketing plan for comment and adoption

Visit La Junta achieved the following results through the Restart Destinations Mentor project:

  • foundational elements for a marketing plan based on previous CTO program outcomes
  • review and approval of the marketing plan by the La Junta Tourism Advisory Board
  • one-hour consultation with CTO representative Dave Santucci to discuss the importance of proactively championing the value of tourism with residents, elected officials and local civic groups 
  • completion of the Champion the Value of Tourism Learning Lab by La Junta Tourism Director and Tourism Board 
  • consultation and guidance on additional grant opportunities 
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.