Tourism Legislator Support Toolkit

The Tourism Legislator Support Toolkit toolkit helps tourism partners meet with their legislators to discuss tourism and its economic benefits. You can use this toolkit to educate the general assembly on the value of tourism.

Tourism provides an economic benefit to every corner of Colorado, including our: 

  • large metropolitan cities
  • western slope
  • smaller and rural communities

Statewide tourism funding is essential to the success of our tourism industry, and we have spent our dollars wisely, incorporating sustainable tourism into our messaging and creating campaigns to spread our wealth into the less-visited portions of our beautiful state.

This toolkit was created by the Tourism Association of Colorado (TIAC).


Type: Toolkit

For: Tourism partners

OEDIT division: Colorado Tourism Office

Travelers to Colorado in 2019 directly generated more than $24.2 billion in spending. (Dean Runyan Associates (PDF))

Visitors generated a record-setting $1.49 billion in state and local taxes in 2019 (Runyan). Of that amount, 61 percent goes to local jurisdictions. To replace this revenue would have required an additional $707 in tax payments from every Colorado household. Oftentimes, residents don’t realize that visitor spending creates direct benefit for their communities.

The hospitality industry was Colorado’s second-largest job generator in 2018 (EMSI), with travel spending directly generating more than 181,200 jobs and earnings of $7.4 billion. (Runyan)

Coloradans ranked tourism as the state’s most important industry in a 2019 resident sentiment survey (Longwoods International). Tourism was ranked 7.7 on a 10-point sliding scale compared with:

  • agriculture (7.3)
  • technology (7.1)
  • retail (6.6)
  • financial services (6.3)
  • aerospace (5.9)
  • mining (5.1)

Recent research conducted by Longwoods International illustrates a strong connection between a dynamic tourism campaign and a halo effect, significantly improving our state’s image for several economic development objectives.

In a spring 2017 study, Longwoods found that Colorado’s tourism advertising, especially when combined with a subsequent visit, significantly raised the overall image of Colorado in the following categories:

  • a good place to start a business
  • a good place to start a career
  • a good place to retire

According to Andy Levine with Forbes, “… while tourism marketing has been shown to generate significant economic impact by driving visitation, these research results demonstrate the potential long-term benefits for broader economic development.”

Tourism is one of Colorado’s biggest businesses, and businesses require investment in order to succeed. The return on investment on tourism spending has been proven many times over. The Colorado Tourism Office's marketing campaign ranks among the top 10 percent annually for return on investment. We just need the capital and support from our elected officials in Colorado. An investment in state tourism promotion is an investment in Colorado and pays big dividends for the state, all of our communities, and our residents.

Colorado tourism is staking out a national leadership position for its commitment to promoting responsible tourism practices. The Colorado Tourism Office (CTO) created a groundbreaking partnership with the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics to encourage the state’s visitors to travel like locals and be active stewards of Colorado’s natural resources.

Five major statewide tourism-based organizations – including the Colorado Hotel and Lodging Association, the Colorado Association of Destination Marketing Organizations, the Colorado Association of Ski Towns, the Colorado River Outfitters Association, and the Colorado Dude and Guest Ranch Association – all now have become strategic partners in this collaboration to educate tens of millions of travelers to protect Colorado resources.

A new study of Colorado resident sentiment shows that Coloradans strongly support efforts to educate travelers to reduce their impacts on resources. Residents also show strong support for efforts to encourage them to visit their own state and for promotion of off-peak seasons and less-visited destinations (Longwoods). These practices are core to the Colorado Tourism Office's ground-breaking initiative to promote responsible tourism.

A primary goal of the Colorado Tourism Office's stewardship initiative is to spread the economic impact of tourism more widely across the state and especially into rural areas.

The Colorado Tourism Office is integrating sustainability concepts into its marketing priorities by working with partners like Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado to promote volunteer opportunities for Colorado travelers. A new online resource called Colo-Road Trips provides more than 200 complete multi-day itineraries for less-visited and off-peak destinations along with tips on how to take part in volunteer opportunities and show care for Colorado when visiting. The Colorado Tourism Office’s National Campaigns Work for Colorado.

The Colorado Tourism Office is the only entity that promotes the entire state of Colorado as a superlative destination for both U.S. and international travelers. By promoting Colorado as a whole, Colorado Tourism Office's award-winning “Come to Life” campaign generates traveler interest for every destination across the state, from Denver to the ski resorts to Paonia, Burlington and Alamosa.

Many of Colorado's rural communities cannot afford to advertise or place public relations pieces in national and international markets. They rely on the Colorado Tourism Office to promote Colorado as a dream state tourism destination in key markets and then tie into marketing programs offered by the Colorado Tourism Office. These include free business listings on, inclusion in national stories placed by the Colorado Tourism Office's public relations team, distribution of brochures at Colorado Welcome Centers, inclusion in inbound national and international familiarization trips for tour operators and media and the ability to advertise through the Colorado Tourism Office's website, social media and inspirational publications at reasonable prices.

A new analysis of the Colorado Tourism Office's state tourism website shows that on average 1 of every 6 visitors to local destination websites originates on, which generated more than 10.8 million user sessions in 2018. Due to Colorado Tourism Office's steady investment, frequently ranks as the nation’s top-performing state tourism website (Quantcast).

Since the recession in 2009, Colorado traveler spending has grown by 65 percent, compared with 46 percent growth in traveler spending nationally. (Runyan)

Colorado Tourism Office programs lift the entire state, especially small business and rural Colorado. The Colorado Tourism Office funded $721,000 in grants to communities and nonprofits in 39 counties during fiscal year 2019. The Colorado Tourism Office's Marketing Matching Grant provides a dollar-for-dollar match up to a maximum grant of $25,000 or a 4-to-1 match for up to $10,000 in grants for small more rural organizations.

Colorado is the only state with a dedicated fund of $600,000 supporting the promotion and development of agritourism, which is used to develop tourism offerings and generate traveler spending in rural Colorado.

The Colorado Tourism Office welcomes more than a million visitors a year at 10 Colorado Welcome Centers, which distribute travel brochures and maps free of charge from destinations across the state. A 2017 study showed the welcome centers directly influenced $23 million in visitor spending, mostly by encouraging travelers to visit more attractions.

The Colorado Tourism Office operates a $2.4 million international tourism initiative aimed at attracting travelers who spend far more than the average domestic traveler. In partnership with Brand USA and through contracts with in-country representatives in target markets, the Colorado Tourism Office markets destinations across the state to international travelers and creates ways for Colorado attractions and destinations to take part in international sales missions and trade shows and participate in in-country promotions.

In 1993, Colorado became the first state to eliminate its tourism marketing, when voters cut its $12 million promotion budget to zero. As a result, Colorado’s domestic market share plunged 30% within two years, representing a loss of more than $1.4 billion in tourism revenue annually.

Over time, the revenue loss increased to well over $2 billion yearly. In the important summer resort segment, Colorado dropped from first place among states to 17th.

In 2015, Colorado finally reached and exceeded the national share of discretionary travelers it held before the complete loss of state tourism spending in 1994. In other words, it took the Colorado tourism industry 21 years to recover from the devastating elimination of the state’s tourism promotion budget.

All but 8.5 percent of the Colorado Tourism Office’s $20.1 million budget is spent on tourism promotion and programs, well below the national average of 10.8 percent.

Colorado state tourism funding has no built-in mechanism for covering increased costs. That translates into reduced support for rural Colorado and national programs.

Because of hard work by both the Colorado Tourism Office and tourism partners across the state, Colorado restored its tourism promotional standing over the past several years. However, in recent history Colorado also has experienced tourism challenges due to uncontrollable factors such as low snow, wildfires and floods, recession, and increased competition.

Research has shown that it can take years to build a viable tourism product, but just months to lose a tourism season based on the factors above. Many of the tourism destinations recently devastated by hurricanes are relying on a rebound in tourism as a major economic contributor because tourism is one of the quickest ways to inject spending into an economy. Just one example in Colorado were the 2018 summer fires. While many destinations were significantly impacted, Durango’s numbers that summer tell a compelling story. The shutdown of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad that June cost the local economy an estimated $31 million in one month alone. 

A consistent, well planned and motivational Colorado marketing campaign is essential to take advantage of good economic periods and minimize damage during challenging conditions, including recession.

Colorado Tourism Board Legislative Representatives explain the value of Colorado's tourism industry in these videos. The first video is a shortened 30-second clip of the second 2-minute video.


The Tourism Industry Association of Colorado infographic (PDF) communicates how the tourism industry can support a sustainable workforce in Colorado to include employment, housing, wages, transportation, and education.


The Colorado Tourism Office Roadmap (PDF) incorporates the insights of more than 1,000 tourism industry professionals, elected leaders, and Coloradans. The roadmap was shaped by these insights, a survey posted on a public website, and extensive analysis of existing CTO research as well as original research by the National Laboratory for Tourism and e-Commerce (NLTeC) in Gainesville, Florida.


The Colorado Travel Impact study (PDF) was prepared for the Colorado Tourism Office by Dean Runyan Associates. This study documents the economic significance of the travel industry in Colorado from 2000 to 2019. Findings show the level of travel spending by overnight international and domestic visitors traveling to and through the state and the impact this spending had on the economy in terms of earnings, employment and tax revenue.

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