A Message From Cathy
The big question for us all — What’s next? — found a few answers last week.
The CARES Act signed into law on Friday holds out a $2.2 trillion torch of hope for shattered businesses, furloughed employees and millions of Americans with lives in disarray. The U.S. Travel Association pledges to keep pushing for even more relief, but in the meantime, is sharing guidance for accessing these new benefits.
Closer to home, our parent agency, the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT), has launched a helpline and a collection of resources to help Colorado businesses get back on their feet. The Colorado Tourism Office also is pointing the way to help.
And now the brand-new Tourism Subcommittee of the Economic Council created by Governor Polis is preparing recommendations for immediate steps the governor can take to revitalize the state’s tourism industry as swiftly as possible. The report is on track for delivery this week to Economic Council Chair Federico Peña and OEDIT Director Betsy Markey.
Ably chaired by VISIT DENVER’s Richard Scharf, the subcommittee included representation from the state’s major tourism industry sectors — DMO, ski, casino, hotel, restaurant, transportation and agritourism. The group of 13 on last Thursday’s hourlong call included six members of the Colorado Tourism Board, including Sonia Riggs, President & CEO of the Colorado Restaurant Association, who is leading development of the subcommittee’s report.
There was heartfelt recognition of the deep wound that coronavirus containment has inflicted on the state’s lifeblood, in particular on the tourism economy. With restaurants, hotels, ski resorts and airports sitting vacant, a cornerstone of state and local finances and jobs has dried up almost overnight. On top of this, David Farahi, president of the Colorado Gaming Association, projects a 20 percent drop in the casino revenues that fund vital state operations, including the Colorado Tourism Office.
Though marketing budgets across Colorado have been ravaged, this group shared a deep conviction that the single most powerful path to recovery would be full-out promotion of Colorado travel. This group is intent on sending a clear message to the Governor: The path to jump-starting the state’s economy — and rescuing what’s left of 2020 — lies in enticing people and groups to burst out of their confinement and start spending money at restaurants, hotels and attractions as fast as possible.
“We are in a perishable industry. Our success depends on people walking through the door,” Scharf said. “The minute we see a glimmer of light, I’d rather try to salvage this year, rather than throw it away.”
Ideas ranged from targeting residents first to creating tax incentives for group travel to lifting up Colorado’s commitment to sustainability to better collaboration to re-opening at least a few ski resorts. “Although the local economic impact may not be tremendous,” said Bob Stinchcomb, Senior Vice President of Sales for Alterra Mountain Company, “It would be a pretty powerful visual to illustrate that Colorado is beginning to reopen.”
That highly focused, highly informed discussion lends powerful credibility for the Colorado Tourism Office’s recovery strategy. We will go to market at the earliest opportunity with brand-new messaging starting close to home, then spreading to destination travelers across the country when the time is right. Our team couldn’t agree more with Kieran Cain, Vice President of Resort Marketing for Vail Resorts, who said, “The purity of our destinations might make Colorado the first place for people to come back when they’re ready to go.”
We’re also exploring the potential to field our first-ever fall campaign to capture travelers who appear to be delaying this year’s travel plans. A key component of that plan would be a paid media co-op to amplify messaging and stretch budgets for Colorado industry partners.
Many subcommittee members shared concerns that it would be a slow recovery, and that gutted marketing budgets would limit destinations’ potential for bouncing back. The CARES Act includes no relief for 501 C (6) nonprofits, which is how many Chambers and DMOs are organized. U.S. Travel is making this a top priority for Phase IV relief.
In the meantime, Doug Price, President and CEO of Visit Colorado Springs, believes the TABOR reserve funds for cities and counties must be unlocked and fast. He joined others in saying it also will be vital for the tourism industry to advocate for more funding for the Colorado Tourism Office to drive a strong promotional push accelerating recovery statewide.
“We as an industry have often been this invisible sector that has been noticed only when we stopped,” Price said, noting that tourism ultimately led the way to recovery after 9/11. “The sooner we can get people out of their homes the better. We learn that lesson after every one of these events.”
The Colorado Rural Academy for Tourism will continue to be a vital resource to rural communities looking to build their tourism efforts in the months and years to come. However, because of the uncertainty around COVID-19, all CRAFT program applications for the next cycle have been placed on hold. We will announce application dates as soon as appropriate. In the meantime, please check out our CRAFT Toolkits for free support, activities, resources and information.
The Colorado Tourism Office's grant programs will continue to support destination marketing and research efforts to help the Colorado tourism industry leverage their dollars to greater effect. However, because of the uncertainty around COVID-19, all CTO grants program applications for FY21 have been placed on hold. We will announce application dates as soon as available.
COVID-19 & Impacts on International Travel
With the world becoming an ever-smaller place and more people having access to travel throughout the world, it is no surprise that a pandemic occurring overseas quickly spread to our shores. The CTO International Team was already working with our team in China to find the road to recovery as the pandemic started to spread, affecting many of our planned trade shows and missions, as you will see below.
We have been working to compile a timeline of what has happened in each of our key markets. Going forward, most events, including Familiarization Tours (FAMs), will be postponed until the end of May at the earliest. All advertising has been withdrawn at this time. However, much of that content will be ready to activate as the time is right. We look forward to the day when airplanes are flying again, and we once again are able to host international visitors in Colorado.
Our thoughts are continually with our industry partners during these tough times. Please reach out at any time; we are available to give advice and help in any way we can.
RTO Summit West — Receptive Project
As an ongoing part of increasing the number of bookable rooms in the state, Jennifer Bartlett represented Colorado at RTO Summit West, February 25–26 and met with Receptive Tour Operators selling the Western U.S. At that time, many reported an increase in demand for Colorado during the booking season Nov.–Feb. Many RTOs report that it has been an ongoing challenge to get lodging contracts in Colorado. Being able to provide them with the inventory list of lodging properties wanting to contract, which our team compiled, was very well received. We ask you to continue to offer inventory, especially during these tough times. It is part of the road toward recovery.
ITB Berlin (March 4–8, 2020) becomes Mini-Sales Mission
ITB was one of the first large-scale tourism shows to be canceled in response to the COVID-19 outbreak within days of the show. Colorado industry partners VISIT DENVER and Visit Glenwood Springs were already traveling in Europe and on their way to ITB, so our in-market representatives, Get it Across (GIA), created a mini-sales mission instead. Although the CTO and partners The Broadmoor and Mountains & Mesas were unable to join, GIA and the present delegates continued with the pre-ITB Media Dinner on March 3 with six media members and had several great media meetings in Berlin and Hamburg. Meetings and trainings with key tour operators took place in Berlin, Hamburg and Hannover with updates on what’s new in Colorado, including sustainability efforts and new offerings.
Canada Media Mission
The annual media mission to Canada took place March 9–12. The focus was on Toronto and connecting with media in the area. CTO partners included VISIT DENVER, Visit Colorado Springs, Snowmass Tourism, Aspen Chamber Resort Association and Visit Estes Park. Over two days, the team did eight deskside-style one-on-one media appointments, with our main messaging points being the Care for Colorado Principles, Dark Skies and Colo-Road trips.
On Tuesday, March 10th, CTO hosted the monthly TMAC gathering at CRAFT, a taproom that serves Colorado beer. With more than 50 in attendance, CTO gave an overview of Colorado, followed by each partner. We capped the evening with airline tickets from Air Canada and overnight giveaways to a winner of a Trivia Contest. COVID-19 was certainly beginning to be a part of the conversation at that point, and we withheld hugging and opted for the elbow greeting instead.
Upcoming Events — Other
IPW, Las Vegas, NV, May 30–June 3, 2020
Go West Summit, Portland, OR, Aug. 31–Sept. 3, 2020 (rescheduled from March 24–27)
American Cup Golf Invitational 2020, Sept. 27–Oct. 2, Denver and Vail
The day Governor Polis declared a state of emergency, the CTO paused the winter campaign, except for lower-funnel tactics for travelers still actively looking or booking. Fortunately, the winter campaign was nearing an end, and we had already reached or exceeded many of the goals. The brand-new paid media co-op and the social co-op also were paused until we see indicators that we are transitioning out of crisis.
We immediately shifted our content strategy to focus on road trips, with Colo-Road Trips available to guide travelers in drive markets to off-the-beaten-path trip ideas. This happened across all touchpoints, including Colorado.com, paid search and e-newsletters. We also implemented negative content and keyword blocking across digital channels. And our social began focusing on a “daily dose of Colorado calm.”
At the same time, we began making strategic shifts to our almost complete spring/summer campaign and media plan. This was originally slated to begin on April 1, but now the start date is TBD. Assuming recovery happens in time for summer travel, we plan to pivot MMGY’s recession-proof media plan to rely more heavily on our key summer regional/drive markets, pulled from Arrivalist. We also plan on layering in targeting to Resilient Travelers and focusing on lower-funnel tactics in anticipation of shorter booking cycles.
The CTO is also in the process of evolving our spring/summer campaign ideas on a phased basis (in-crisis, transition, recovery), with a current focus on developing a message of inspiration at the top of the funnel and speaking to Colo-Road trips, dispersion and value further down the funnel. Our PR team is prioritizing amplification of our summer stories in drive markets and is actively looking for Colorado stories of inspiration.
Given the ever-changing environment, we are creating weekly marketing plans and will provide you with ongoing updates.
Top PR Placements
Top Social Posts
The post with the highest organic reach over the last 30 days comes via Fort Collins as a part of our “Colorado Calm” social media campaign we rolled out during our current crisis. It is well known that our mountains perform well, but this post shows how much people need the calming effect of Colorado during these trying times. Since they are unable to visit, we wanted to bring Colorado to them with the help of our industry. As you can see from this video, it is not professionally shot and color corrected, it is just Colorado in raw form — the way a visitor would see it on a trip.