Colorado Tourism Office Convenes Inclusivity in Travel Advisory Group

Panel to recommend how Colorado can share a warmer welcome for all travelers, regardless of race or ethnicity, sexual orientation or ability

DENVER (Dec. 17, 2020) - The Colorado Tourism Office (CTO) launched its Inclusivity in Travel Advisory Group today, assembling nearly 30 Colorado leaders to identify ways of attracting more diverse travelers and sharing a warmer welcome for all, regardless of race or ethnicity, sexual orientation or ability. 

In keeping with Governor Jared Polis’ executive order promoting equity, diversity and inclusion throughout Colorado, the advisory group includes two state representatives and a county commissioner as well as a range of tourism sectors, including lodging, restaurants, outdoor recreation, arts and culture, casino, cannabis. the liquid arts, and academia. 

Co-chairing the panel are two Colorado Tourism Board members, Wanda James of Denver, founder of Simply Pure, and Laura Valdez, co-executive director of the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery. Serving as Honorary Chair is Elliott L. Ferguson, II, President and CEO of Destination DC. As national chair of the U.S. Travel Association Board of Directors, Ferguson has been leading a national conversation about diversity in the tourism industry. 

“While Colorado is a destination powerhouse, our share of racially diverse travelers is below national norms, especially for Black travelers,” said CTO Director Cathy Ritter. “Our charge for this panel is to give us insight into how to break down barriers and share our world-famous attractions and rich human history in meaningful ways with more people.”

CTO’s latest Longwoods International survey shows 86 percent of visitors in 2019 were white or Caucasian, compared with 82 percent nationally. While Colorado’s attraction for Latinx and indigenous travelers was slightly above national norms, just 5 percent were Black, compared with 9 percent nationally. 

“When you consider the intrinsic nature of travel, you’ll find that connection is at its heart. Every travel experience brings you closer to understanding different cultures and walks of life—it gives the gift of perspective.” said co-chair Wanda James. “The travel industry is rooted in shared experiences and understanding, which is why our industry needs to be leading the charge to welcome diversity and inclusion, and today is the first step in laying the foundation for this path forward.”

“The work in front of this advisory group and the Colorado tourism industry is critical, and comes after what has been a year of reckoning for our state and our nation,” said Laura Valdez, “This advisory group has an opportunity to lay a clear path for Colorado and confront barriers that many travelers face when deciding to visit our incredible state.”

“The reality is that our industry is known for hospitality, but not everyone feels welcome everywhere,” said Ferguson. I am happy to be working with the Colorado Tourism Office on this advisory group as they go beyond conversation to accountability in creating a more hospitable environment for all travelers.”

The CTO has engaged Ascent Inclusion Consulting of Denver to facilitate the discussion and draft the final report. The group will be asked to convene for a second and final session in February to review and finalize the report, to be shared with the Colorado Tourism Office and the Colorado tourism industry.

In addition to James, Valdez and Ferguson, advisory group members include:

●      Taishya Adams of Boulder, Policy Director, Outdoor Afro; Commissioner for Colorado Parks and Wildlife

●      Andrea Albo of Denver, Senior Vice President of Culture and Strategy, Denver International Airport

●      Patricia Cameron of Colorado Springs, Founder, Blackpackers

●      Thomas Davidson of Dillon, Summit County Commissioner

●      Dr. Gerilyn Davis of Denver, Chief Inclusion Officer, Inclusion on the Slopes

●      Navin Dimond of Denver, CEO and Chairman, Stonebridge Companies

●      Crystal Egli of Denver, Co-Founder, Inclusive Journeys

●      Chelsea Elder of Lakewood, Executive Director, Adaptive Adventures

●      Christian Hardigree of Denver, Dean, School of Hospitality, Events and Tourism, Metropolitan State University-Denver

●      Leslie Herod of Denver, State Representative

●      Eric Hiraga of Denver, Director, Denver Office of Economic Development

●      Sonya Jaquez Lewis of unincorporated Longmont, State Senator-elect

●      Magda King, General Manager, Antlers at Vail

●      Cristi Lott of Boulder, Regional Vice President, IHG (Intercontinental Hotels Group)

●      Bryan Martin of Golden, Executive Director, Big City Mountaineers

●      Andrea Moore of Denver, Executive Director, The Wayfaring Band Inc.

●      Mar Naibi of Aspen, Partner & Product Development Manager, Pure Adventures

●      Dawn Nudell Richardson of Denver, Owner/Manager, Rising Sun Distillery

●      Kathryn Redhorse of Denver, Executive Director, Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs

●      Sonia Riggs of Denver, President & CEO, Colorado Restaurant Association

●      Meera Rosser of Golden, Founder, The Casino Culture Coach

●      Gary Schluter of Denver, Founder, Rocky Mountain Holiday Tours, LLC

●      Janice Sinden of Denver, President & CEO, Denver Center for the Performing Arts

●      Marissa Volpe of Denver, Chief of Equity and Engagement, History Colorado

●      Helanius Wilkins of Boulder, Associate Chair and Professor of Dance, University of Colorado-Boulder


More information about the Inclusivity in Travel Advisory Group, including its charter for action, is at Recordings of both sessions as well as the final report will be available on this site.


About the Colorado Tourism Office: The Colorado Tourism Office (CTO) is a division of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade. The CTO’s mission is to generate traveler spending through promotion of Colorado as a four-season, four-corner, world-class travel destination and development of compelling, sustainable travel experiences. In 2019, Colorado travelers directly spent $24.2 billion, generating $1.49 billion in local and state revenues. Replacing those revenues would have cost each Colorado household $707 in additional taxes last year. Tourism is the state’s second-largest employer, directly supporting 181,200 jobs in 2019. For more information, please visit