Back to top

The Colorado Tourism Office and VISIT DENVER Report Record-Breaking Tourism Growth in 2011 According to Longwoods International Study

The Colorado Tourism Office and VISIT DENVER Report Record-Breaking Tourism
Growth in 2011 According to Longwoods International Study

Colorado reports record increases in marketable leisure trips and visitor spending;
Denver reports record-breaking visitation, spending and double-digit business travel growth

DENVER (June 20, 2012) – Colorado and Denver set new records for visitation and spending in 2011, according to a profile of Colorado and Denver visitors by research firm Longwoods International commissioned by the Colorado Tourism Office and VISIT DENVER.

Colorado welcomed 57.9 million visitors in 2011, the most ever in the state’s history.  Although total visitation increased less than one percent, total domestic spending reached a record $10.76 billion, a healthy six percent increase over 2010.  Day trips to the state also increased by 10 percent in 2011 and spending by that group rose by four percent.

Perhaps most importantly, Colorado saw its market share for the extremely valuable marketable leisure trip segment increase to a record 14.3 million visits, representing four percent growth over 2010.  With marketable visits flat on a national level, Colorado moved into 16th place overall among the 50 states, from 17th place in 2010. 

Marketable trips, defined as travel that is influenced by marketing efforts and are not comprised of visitors who are visiting friends or relatives or business travelers, are considered an important measurement, as they are an indication of the success and effectiveness of the state’s marketing efforts. Spending on marketable leisure trips rose to $5.3 billion in 2011, a five percent increase over 2010.

Colorado continued to lead all states in the competitive overnight ski travel market, garnering 18.6 percent of all trips in 2011. Colorado also maintained its ninth-place ranking in outdoor recreation, with backpacking, hiking, camping and national park visitation noted as the top outdoor recreation activities.

“We were extremely excited about the 2011 report, particularly with the gains in the marketable leisure segment, which confirms that we’re using our tourism funding effectively and with great success. It also underscores the importance of properly funding our state’s tourism product, as there is a clear connection between increased marketing funds and increased visitor spending,” said Al White, director of the Colorado Tourism Office.

Denver Sets New Tourism Records in 2011
More Visitors Spend More Money in the Mile High City than Ever Before

The Mile High City registered its best tourism year ever in 2011, setting new records for the number of overnight visitors and the amount of money they spent, according to the 2011 to Longwoods International report.  The study showed that Denver welcomed a record 13.2 million overnight visitors in 2011, a 4 percent increase over the 12.7 million who visited the city in 2010. 

Overnight visitors to Denver in 2011 also spent a record $3.3 billion, 10 percent more than in 2010.  Leading the increase in visitor spending was a 17 percent jump in business travelers to Denver and a 4 percent increase in marketable visitors – visitors who could travel anywhere, but chose to visit Denver.  Both business travelers and marketable visitors spent more money per day in Denver than visitors who are staying with friends and relatives.  Marketable visitors spent $114 a day in Denver, almost three times the $43 per day spent by a typical visitor staying with friends and relatives. Business travelers are a close second, spending $107 a day.

“We were particularly pleased to see that for the seventh straight year, Denver saw an increase in marketable visitors, which gave us a record-breaking tourism year,” said Richard Scharf, president & CEO of VISIT DENVER, The Convention & Visitors Bureau.  Scharf said the report shows a clear correlation between money spent on tourism marketing and the money spent by visitors.  “When you spend more on tourism marketing it increases high-end tourism. With more money spent by tourists, it allows us to collect even more tax dollars,” Scharf said.  He noted that in 2011, the city also had a record Denver lodger’s tax collection of $55.6 million.

Some other trends from the Denver study:

  • Denver outpaced national travel trends with marketable visitors increasing by 4 percent in Denver versus 1 percent nationally and business travelers increasing 17 percent in Denver versus 3 percent nationally.
  • In addition to 13.2 million overnight visitors, Denver hosted 7.8 million people on daytrips, 7 percent more than in 2010.  Most of the day trips (80 percent) originated in-state. Denver day trippers spent $421 million, 23 percent more than in 2010.


To view the complete Longwoods International Colorado Travel Year Study 2011 presentation, visit

Colorado is a four-season destination offering unparalleled adventure and recreational pursuits, a thriving arts scene, a rich cultural heritage, flavorful cuisine, and 26 renowned ski areas and resorts. The state's breathtaking scenic landscape boasts natural hot springs, the headwaters of seven major rivers, many peaceful lakes and reservoirs, 10 national parks and monuments, and 58 mountain peaks that top 14,000 feet. For more information or a copy of the 2011 Colorado Official State Vacation Guide, visit or call 1-800-COLORADO. Visitors and media can follow Colorado's social media channels, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and Foursquare, on the Colorado Connect page at Media are invited to visit the Colorado Media Room at for story ideas, press releases, a high-resolution image library, the official Colorado press kit and more.  

About VISIT DENVER, The Convention & Visitors Bureau
Celebrating more than 100 years of promoting the Mile High City, VISIT DENVER is a nonprofit trade association that contracts with the City of Denver to market Denver as a convention and leisure destination, increasing economic development in the city, creating jobs and generating taxes.  Tourism is the second largest industry in Denver, generating $3.3 billion in annual spending in 2011, while supporting nearly 50,000 jobs. Learn more about Denver at, on Twitter @iknowdenver and, or by phone at 800 2 DENVER.

Established in 1978, Longwoods International specializes in tourism research. Their syndicated quarterly study that surveys more than two million U.S. travelers each year, provides destination marketing organizations with estimates of visitor volumes, visitor spending and other characteristics of those visiting their destination. Throughout the United States, their cleints include the U.S. Government (OTTI), the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC), New York City and New York State, Washington D.C. and the State of Washington, California, Arizona, Oregon, Wyoming, Ohio, Arkansas, Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, Michigan, Philadelphia, and others. In addition, the Longwoods was recently awarded a contract with the Canadian Tourism Commission to study their $72 million worldwide tourism campaign, adding to their growing global client list. Longwoods’ client base extends beyond tourism to include numerous major corporations/agencies in the U.S. and abroad, including Proctor and Gamble, RBC Royal Bank, Farmers Insurance, GM, Bell Canada, US Navy, U.S. Postal Service, and Canada Post.

Contacts: Carly Grimes/Colorado Tourism Office, 720-289-9366 / [email protected]
                Rich Grant/VISIT DENVER, 303-571-9450 / [email protected]