Colorado Governor’s Tourism Conference in Pueblo, Colorado highlights resiliency and adaptability of tourism industry

Pueblo, Colo. – More than 430 (327 in-person and 111 virtual) travel and tourism industry representatives and elected officials gathered at the Pueblo Convention Center in Pueblo, Colorado this week for the 2021 Governor’s Colorado Tourism Conference. Hosted by the Colorado Tourism Office and presented by Visit Pueblo, the conference which ran from November 3 through November 5 featured three days of informative seminars, engaging workshops and keynote sessions from industry leaders.

Governor Polis helped kick off the conference at the Welcome Reception where he invoked this year’s theme of “We’ve got grit” to recognize the resiliency and adaptability of the tourism industry in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Despite the challenges of this pandemic, I’ve been fortunate to get out into the community, talk with folks on the ground, and see just how beautiful our state is,”  continued Polis. “From the Eastern Plains, to the San Luis Valley, up to the Western Slope and everything in between, Colorado is filled with opportunities for residents and tourists alike to explore and play.”

“I’m excited to participate in this year’s Governor’s Tourism Conference as part of the CTO team,” said Tim Wolfe, who was appointed executive director of the Colorado Tourism Office in August 2021. “We are ready to welcome back national and international travelers, find new ways to attract the business traveler and continue to be good stewards of Colorado through our Leave No Trace and Do Colorado Right programs. There are so many opportunities and pent up demand for travel and I’m excited to explore these opportunities with other industry professionals.” 

This three-day conference featured a variety of experts in well-attended breakout sessions and learning labs that focused on topics including: the Value of Tourism in Colorado, Destination Resilience, Travel PR Landscape, the Evolution of Social Media and Tourism, Balancing Stewardship, Travel Market Trends, Process Improvement and International Tourism. 

The Governor welcomed conference attendees at an opening reception on Wednesday evening and the new CTO Director, Tim Wolfe, participated in several tourism sessions. 

“The last 18-months have been a trying time for the tourism and hospitality industry, and “true grit” is a very apt name for this year’s conference,” said Courtney Frazier, chair of the Colorado Tourism Board and executive director of the Colorado Dude & Guest Ranch Association. “Our industries continue to rebound and adapt to new ways of doing business. I am encouraged by the tenacity and work of our many industry partners.”

The annual awards dinner on Thursday, November 4, honored individuals and organizations that have greatly contributed to the advancement and innovation of Colorado’s tourism industry. The awards and winners are detailed below.

The Colorado Tourism Office Board Chairman’s Award is awarded to extraordinary individuals’ commitment to tourism in Colorado. This year’s award was presented to Kelli Hepler.

Kelli Hepler is a true agritourism legend in the Colorado tourism industry, serving as a board member, and current president, of the Colorado Agritourism Association which she helped to establish back in 2014. She helped develop an award-winning Agritourism program in Delta County over 15 years ago and continues to work with local Agritourism providers. She has received numerous awards and recognitions throughout her 20-year career. 
The Outstanding Community Tourism Initiative Award is presented to a community or region that has demonstrated excellence in a tourism event, promotion or project. This year’s award recipient is Glenwood Gold Visitor Stimulus Incentive.

The Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association awarded 1,000 people with $100 in the Glenwood Gold community currency. Many businesses in Glenwood Springs signed up to accept Glenwood Gold. There was no cost to the business, and they received 100% of the face-value of the community currency. Lodging properties, restaurants, and retail businesses benefited from this initiative, boosting the local economy. 

The award for Outstanding Sustainability Initiative, Project or Program went to Adventure by Nature Pledge

During the COVID-19 Pandemic, Chaffee County saw increased visitation to their 567,000 acres of public lands. The Chaffee County Visitors Bureau created the Adventure By Nature Pledge to educate visitors about responsible recreation.

The Adventure By Nature Pledge is an outreach and education project supporting outdoor recreation, economic and visitor growth in Chaffee County by encouraging responsible recreation, stewardship principles and best practices for visitors and residents recreating in the outdoors.

Utilizing a CRAFT grant, the Chaffee County Visitors Bureau developed responsible recreation messaging incorporated into 60,000 Chaffee County Visitor Guides and implemented in the visitors bureau’s website. The responsible recreation content was also incorporated into 15 videos and promoted on social media. Local businesses were encouraged to participate in the campaign by hanging Adventure by Nature posters in their store. 
The Governor’s Award for Outstanding Individual Contribution to Colorado Tourism is presented to an individual to recognize his/her tireless contributions to advancing the Colorado tourism industry. This award was presented to  Lucy Kay, President of the Breckenridge Tourism Office. 

Kay has put Breckenridge on the map as one of the top mountain destinations—not just in Colorado—but across the U.S. She rose to the challenge of destination management by promoting sustainable travel with highly effective marketing campaigns that promoted responsible visitation and environmental protection.  

Kay has a seat on nearly every Colorado tourism association, bringing her wisdom to CADMO, TIAC, and the CTO Board. She is also an executive committee officer for The Summit Foundation which grants more than $1 million annually to nonprofit organizations across a five-county area. 
The Governor’s Award for Outstanding Marketing Program recognizes an event or project undertaken by a community or region to promote tourism in Colorado. This award went to the Colorado Liquid Arts Passport Program.

The Colorado Liquid Arts Passport Program is a digital passport created by the four trade associations dedicated to the wine, beer, cider, and spirits industries in Colorado, CAVE, the Colorado Brewers Guild, the Colorado Cider Guild and the Colorado Distillers Guild. Consumers can purchase a Passport in a length of 30- or 90-days and receive discounts on tastings, bottles sales or merchandise at tasting rooms across Colorado. The passports are broken up by region, (Mountains & Mesas, Rockies Playground, Denver & Cities of the Rockies and Pikes Peak Wonders) to allow locals and visitors alike to discover Colorado and new craft businesses throughout the state. The creation of this passport allows for increased promotion of our unique tourism industry through press, social media promotion and thoughtful economic recovery after the pandemic.
The Jack Snow Volunteer Award is presented to an individual who selflessly dedicated time and energy to furthering tourism in Colorado and bettering the visitor experience in the state. This year’s award goes to Grace Krivec.

Grace has served as a volunteer at the Trinidad Welcome Center since its opening on July 29, 1986 - She is knowledgeable, friendly, experienced and the perfect example of Colorado hospitality!

As the conference closed, the Colorado Tourism Office announced Snowmass as the host city of the 2022 Governor’s Colorado Tourism Conference on September 21–23, 2022.

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