Colorado Governor’s Tourism Conference in Fort Collins Highlights Industry Excellence, Collaboration & Exciting Future Initiatives

Crested Butte named as the host destination for 2024

Fort Collins, Colo. (Sept. 29, 2023) – The Colorado Governor’s Tourism Conference, hosted by the Colorado Tourism Office, concluded today in Fort Collins. This conference was a pivotal event for the state's tourism industry. This annual three-day gathering provided an invaluable opportunity for tourism professionals, community leaders, and stakeholders to come together and share insights. With tourism being a driving force behind Colorado's economy, the conference attracted over 450 industry professionals, experts and enthusiasts from across the state.

Throughout the event, attendees delved into a diverse range of topics, including crisis communications, destination stewardship, marketing strategies, and international promotions. This year showcased an updated agenda and a new Visitor Services Summit to address the evolving needs of this vital sector within the tourism industry. Interactive workshops focused on leadership development, destination stewardship, DEIA (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility), and social media tactics, adding depth to the learning experience. The conference's keynote speakers, Tony Drees and Erik Hansen, brought a compelling blend of motivation and industry wisdom to the stage. Friday morning featured a Fireside Chat with industry leaders discussing the importance of DEIA in tourism, showcasing success stories and challenges, and inspiring participants to implement similar strategies in their own communities.

“The annual Colorado Governor’s Tourism Conference brings together the brightest minds in our state’s travel industry and is a testament to the power of collaboration and innovation,” said Timothy Wolfe, Colorado Tourism Office Director. “This conference stands as a testament to our shared commitment – to furthering strategic growth in the tourism industry, all while embracing our values of responsible tourism, stewardship, inclusivity and leadership.”

Tourism's profound impact on Colorado's economic well-being was a central theme throughout the conference. In 2022, travelers in Colorado contributed a staggering $27.7 billion to the state's economy, generating $1.7 billion in local and state revenues. This substantial revenue not only supported the tourism industry but also alleviated the tax burden for households across the state, reducing it by an impressive $760 per household. Furthermore, the conference underscored the importance of responsible tourism and destination stewardship, areas where Colorado continued to lead within the U.S. tourism industry.

The CTO once again has placed a special emphasis on sustainability, with the conference striving to be a zero-waste event for a second consecutive year.  With a diverse and insightful agenda, the Colorado Governor’s Tourism Conference, also known as Gov Con 2023, left attendees inspired and equipped with the knowledge and connections to further propel the state's tourism sector into the future.

“As the Chair of the Colorado Tourism Office Board of Directors, I'm always inspired by the industry's pursuit of excellence showcased at the annual Colorado Governor’s Tourism Conference,” said Bob Stinchcomb, Senior Vice President at Alterra Mountain Company. “The awards ceremony, a culmination of this spirit, spotlights extraordinary endeavors that amplify our state's allure, underlining our commitment to unforgettable travel experiences.”

Governor Polis kicked off the ceremony by providing remarks about the importance of the tourism industry and presenting the Frontline Tourism Worker Awards. The annual awards dinner took place on Thursday, Sept. 28 and honored individuals and organizations that have greatly contributed to the advancement, creativity and innovation of Colorado’s tourism industry.

The award categories and winners are detailed below.

  • NEW: The Governor’s Award for Top Tourism Workplace is new this year and recognizes a workplace where employees are encouraged to grow and succeed via innovative programming, strong mentoring, high quality of life benefits or other creative incentives that make work fun and engaging for all. This year’s winner was Secret Sauce Food & Beverage in Denver.
  • NEW: The Governor’s Award for Excellence in Advancing Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Accessibility in Tourism is also new this year and celebrates an individual or organization who has shown exemplary leadership in advancing diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility initiatives to drive meaningful change and impact to improve Colorado’s hospitality and tourism industry. This year’s inaugural award went to Visit Boulder with the Boulder DEI Certification Program
  • The Colorado Tourism Office Board Chair’s Award is awarded to extraordinary individuals’ commitment to tourism in Colorado. This year’s award was presented to Laura Jackson, Vice President of Air Service Development & Aviation Research at Denver International Airport.
  • The Governor’s Award for Exemplary Community Tourism Initiative is presented to a community or region that has demonstrated excellence in a tourism event, promotion or project. This year’s award recipient was Visit Estes Park with the Frozen Dead Guy Days Festival.
  • The Governor’s Award for Outstanding Colorado Tourism Champion is presented to an individual to recognize their tireless contributions to advancing the Colorado tourism industry. This award was presented to Doug Price, President & CEO of Visit Colorado Springs.
  • The Governor’s Award for Rising Tourism Star is presented to an individual who is new to the tourism industry within the last five years and has demonstrated leadership, commitment and passion for the Colorado tourism industry. This year’s award was presented to Weylin Ryan, Sustainability & Policy Manager at Visit Durango.
  • The Governor’s Awards for Creative Marketing Campaign recognizes an event or project undertaken by a community or region to promote tourism in Colorado. This award went to Vail Resorts for the Vail Mountain 60th Anniversary Campaign.
  • The Jack Snow Award for Outstanding Volunteer 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 went to Kaye Hainer with the Colorado Welcome Center in Lamar.
  • The Frontline Tourism Worker Awards went to the following individuals in their regions for their outstanding contributions to tourism and hospitality in Colorado.
    • Denver & Cities of the Rockies: Ken Carmody, Tour Guide- Friends of Dinosaur Ridge and Donna L. Vander Baan, Owner/Operator, DVB Transportation
    • Pikes Peak Wonders: Tziavii "Rose" Stevens, Executive Assistant & Native American Heritage Leader, Pueblo Heritage Museum
    • Mystic San Luis Valley: Ariel Chomey, Support Services Specialist, Rio Grande National Forest
    • Mountains & Mesas: Kim Eastman, Visitor Services Manager, Gunnison Country Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center
    • Rockies Playground: Sue Whittingham, Guest Services Supervisor, Snowmass Tourism
    • Pioneering Plains: Joe Martell, Manager, Elbert County Historical Society
    • Great West: Ashley Efraim, Bartender, Hotel Colorado
    • Canyons & Plains: Teri Jobe, Park Guide, Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site

As the conference closed, the Colorado Tourism Office announced Crested Butte as the host destination of the 2024 Colorado Governor’s Tourism Conference. The conference will be held at Crested Butte Mountain Resort & Elevation Hotel on Sept. 25-27, 2024.

For more information about the 2023 Colorado Governor’s Tourism Conference, please visit

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About the Colorado Tourism Office:

The Colorado Tourism Office (CTO) is a division of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and International Trade. The mission of the CTO is to empower the tourism industry by inspiring the world to explore Colorado responsibly and respectfully. The CTO seeks to advance the strength and resilience of the entire industry through collaboration, inclusivity, innovation and leadership. In 2022, Colorado travelers spent $27.7 billion, generating $1.7 billion in local and state revenues, reducing the tax burden for every Colorado household by $760. For more information, please visit