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Colorado tourism pushes international visitors after pandemic to curb travel in 2020, new director says

The Colorado Tourism Board isn’t counting on the pandemic-fueled increase in domestic travel to forever fill the state’s mountain towns – instead, it’s bracing for an influx of visitors from around the world .

The state tourism board shifted gears last year and promoted local travel out of necessity, but that’s changing now, said Tim Wolfe, director of the tourism board.

“We promoted local travel and adjusted because we knew we weren’t going to have an international [travel] and people wanted to go out. But that won’t always be the norm, ”Wolfe said. “We are marketing nationally and internationally, so the whole dynamic is going to change on how it’s going to work in mountain areas. “

After more than a year, international travelers will be able to travel to the United States from next month – with proof of vaccination. The loss of overseas tourism has cost the state billions in revenue. International travelers spent $ 1.64 billion in Colorado in 2019, up from $ 306,000 in 2020, according to the state tourism board.

Wolfe’s team is focusing on five areas for its overseas marketing campaign – Mexico, UK, Germany, Canada and France, he said. He hopes international tourists will show up for this year’s ski season.

Wolfe, who previously ran the Brown Palace Hotel in Denver, took office in August. He replaces Cathy Ritter, who was director of tourism for over five years. She left in April.

Wolfe said the pandemic has forced a restart of the state’s tourism roadmap to include things like a grant program to attract meetings and conferences. Denver, like many large cities in the United States, suffers from a lack of business and convention travel, which has yet to recover like leisure travel.

“The meetings… and the business traveler really drives things in the Front Range and the Denver area, and it’s not there,” Wolfe said.

Denver has welcomed a few leisure travelers, but not enough to make up for the decline in business travel, he said. The state’s Meetings and Events Incentive Program offers planners a 10% rebate of up to $ 100,000 off the cost for things like space, food, and transportation for events that take place. run through December 2022. So far, $ 700,000 in rebates have been awarded, including 13 events in Denver County. Gatherings include everything from business meetings and weddings to a series of concerts.

One of Wolfe’s priorities is to work with business leaders to determine how to deal with the labor shortage that affects large swathes of the economy, including the hospitality industry. Compensation is only one piece of the puzzle, he said. For example, flexible hours are an important factor in job satisfaction, he said.

“Everyone wants to be part of a group; everyone wants to feel special; everyone wants to feel in control. If companies work on these fundamental human truths, it will help, ”Wolfe said.