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Winter Advertising Campaign Results in Strong Incremental Travel Increases,
Record Return on Investment (ROI) and Economic Impact for Colorado

DENVER (July 23, 2013) – Colorado continued to break records in terms of both visitor volume and visitor expenditures in 2012, welcoming more than 60 million visitors who spent nearly $17 billion, the Colorado Tourism Office announced today. The announcement came as part of the release of three separate studies detailing visitation and spending in Colorado, as well as the effectiveness and impact of the state’s ‘Come To Life’ winter advertising campaign.

“The tourism industry is one of the most important to Colorado’s economy.  The Colorado Tourism Office has put considerable time and energy into measuring our success in attracting visitors who spend money in the state and tracking the effectiveness of our advertising and marketing efforts.  We are very excited to see our results from the past year, as it underscores the importance of the tourism industry to Colorado,” said Al White, Director, Colorado Tourism Office. 

Travel Expenditures Reach Record Levels in 2012
Highlights from Colorado Travel Impacts 2012, Dean Runyan & Associates

Total direct travel spending in Colorado in 2012 reached $16.7 billion, with 60 percent of that spending coming from the commercial lodging sector (hotels, motels, rented condos, bed & breakfasts), followed by 21 percent from food & beverage services, and 19 percent from lodging expenses (including campgrounds).

This spending figure represented an increase of 5.7 percent over 2011.  Since 1996, visitor-generated spending in Colorado has increased at an average annual rate of 4.0 percent, earnings by 2.7 percent, and local and state tax revenues by 4.9 percent and 2.7 percent, respectively.

Underscoring the importance of tourism to Colorado, the local tourism industry generated $918 million in local and state tax revenues in the 2012 calendar year.  This represented approximately $189 of tax revenue per person in the state or $757 for a family of four. Without tourism, each resident would pay $189 more in taxes.  Visitor spending also benefitted Colorado’s local economy by spurring job creation.  The tourism industry directly supported 144,600 jobs with earnings of more than $4.3 billion in 2012.

Winter Ad Campaign Spurs Incremental Travel, $500 Million in Economic Impact
Highlights from 2013 Winter Ad Effectiveness Research, Strategic Marketing & Research, Inc. (SMARI)

Colorado continued its acclaimed ‘Come To Life’ advertising campaign for the winter 2012-13 season.  Working with Strategic Marketing & Research, Inc. (SMARI), the campaign demonstrated strong awareness and more importantly, generated incremental travel resulting in more than 360,000 trips to Colorado.

Given the number of trips the advertising was able to influence in the winter months and the level of spending by those visitors, there was more than $500 million in economic impact to the state between October and April. The campaign also resulted in outstanding return on investment (ROI) for the Colorado Tourism Office, with $302 in travel spending for every $1 invested in paid media, far higher than the $50 to $100 to $1 ratio that SMARI typically sees for state destination marketing campaigns.

Colorado’s “Come To Life” campaign was enhanced by a nationally focused public relations and social media program, which generated 3.3 billion impressions and $22.5M in advertising equivalency value in 2012.

“Colorado’s ‘Come To Life’ Campaign demonstrated that a tourism campaign that makes an emotional connection and gives people a reason to visit a destination is much more powerful and can make a greater impact in ROI than a campaign that talks only about things to see and do. This is demonstrated by the Colorado Tourism Office’s superior ROI on its advertising investment,” said Denise Miller, Vice President, Strategic Marketing & Research, Inc.

Overall both summer and winter marketing campaigns, SMARI reported that campaign efforts generated a total of $1.4 billion in visitor expenditures, 1.3 million incremental trips and a combined ROI of $228 of spending for each dollar invested. 

Record Visitation; Marketable Trips Reach All-Time High; Remains Top Overnight Ski Destination
Highlights from Colorado Travel Year Report 2012, Longwoods International

In terms of visitation, Colorado welcomed more than 60 million visitors for the first time in the state’s history. The number of visitors coming to Colorado on marketable leisure trips totaled an all-time high of 14.6 million, a two percent increase from 2011. Marketable leisure trips are those trips influenced by marketing and exclude visiting friends and relatives (VFR).

Overnight trips reached a record 29.5 million trips, an increase of two percent over 2011. Colorado maintained its lead among states in the competitive overnight ski travel market, garnering about 20 percent of all overnight ski trips in 2012. Business trips increased two percent, continuing the rebound in this sector that began in 2009.

To view the full reports for each of the studies, please click on the links below:


Colorado is a four-season destination offering unparalleled adventure and recreational pursuits, a thriving arts scene, a rich cultural heritage, flavorful cuisine, and 25 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, 13 national parks and monuments, and 58 mountain peaks that top 14,000 feet. 

For more information or a copy of the 2013 Colorado Official State Vacation Guide, visit or call 1-800-COLORADO. Follow Colorado on TwitterFacebookInstagramPinterestGoogle+FoursquareFlickr, Tumblr and YouTube.

Media are invited to visit the Colorado Media Room for story ideas, news releases, image gallery, and other resources. 

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