Colorado Tourism Sets All-Time Records for Sixth Consecutive Year

Research Ranks Colorado Marketing Campaign Among Strongest in the U.S.

DENVER (June 28, 2017) – The Colorado Tourism Office (CTO) today announced that Colorado once again set all-time records for total visitors, visitor spending and tax generation in 2016, welcoming 82.4 million visitors who spent $19.7 billion and generated $1.2 billion in state and local tax revenue.
This is the sixth consecutive year the CTO has seen record-setting growth. Since the depths of the recession in 2009, the state has posted a 37 percent increase in visitation, more than double the 17 percent growth in travel nationally.
The strong gains in visitor numbers pushed Colorado’s share of marketable leisure travelers – who are the target of the state’s “Come To Life” marketing campaign – to 3.1 percent, up from 2.8 percent in 2015. With that increase, Colorado’s market share rank rose from 13th place to 9th place nationally for 2016.
“With the full participation of destinations across the state, Colorado has been building a national success story that is breaking records for state and local tax generation and creating new jobs faster than any other industry sector,” said Cathy Ritter, Director of the Colorado Tourism Office. “By taking our campaign message to an ever more national audience, we are generating travel in every corner of our state, from our cities to our mountains and plains. ”
The announcement includes findings from a collection of studies detailing the impact of Colorado’s tourism industry during 2016 along with the effectiveness of the state’s award-winning ‘Come To Life’ marketing campaign.
Travel Spending Sets New Records in 2016
Highlights from Colorado Travel Impacts 2016, Dean Runyan Associates
Total direct travel spending in Colorado reached an all-time high of $19.7 billion in 2016, with 66 percent of that total from overnight stays in paid accommodations (hotels, motels, rented condos, campgrounds, RV parks and bed & breakfasts). The state’s total travel expenditures increased by 2.7 percent from 2015, pacing national spending growth.
Underscoring the importance of tourism for Colorado residents, the state’s travel industry generated $1.2 billion in local and state tax revenues in 2016, an increase of 7.3 percent from 2015.  To replace those visitor taxes would have required an additional $216 tax payment from each of Colorado’s 5.56 million residents.
Visitor spending also spurred job creation. In 2016, the travel industry directly supported 165,000 jobs, a 3.1 percent increase over 2015, creating earnings of more than $5.8 billion in 2016, a 5.5 percent increase over 2015.
Record Visitation; Marketable Trips Reach All-Time High
Highlights from Colorado Travel Year Report 2016, Longwoods International
Colorado welcomed an unprecedented 82.4 million visitors in 2016, up 6 percent from the 77.7 million who visited in 2015. The 2016 numbers included a record 37.7 million overnight visitors and 44.7 million day travelers. The state’s most valuable travel segment -- marketable leisure trips – reached an all-time high of 18.7 million, a 9.3 percent increase over 2015. Marketable leisure trips, unlike business travel or visits to friends and family, represent travelers who have a choice of destinations and thus can be influenced by marketing.
“The rate of tourism growth Colorado has experienced over the past decade is impressive,” said Michael Erdman, senior vice president of Longwoods International. “Colorado has been increasing visitation at double the national rate, and has had unchecked, record-setting improvement each year since 2009.  Colorado’s amazing growth ranks it among the top 10 states for post-recession recovery in the travel sector.”
Colorado’s Ad Campaign Ranked Among Most Effective in U.S.
Highlights from April 2016 through March 2017 Marketing Effectiveness Research, Strategic Marketing & Research Insights (SMARI)
Colorado’s award-winning ‘Come To Life’ marketing campaign continued to show a high return on investment from April 2016 through March 2017. In studies by Strategic Marketing & Research Insights (SMARInsights), the campaign ranked among the top 10 percent nationally, both for inspiring travelers to want to visit and to learn more about the state.
More importantly, SMARInsights reported the campaign generated significant incremental travel, driving more than 2.6 million additional trips to Colorado with a total impact of $4.2 billion. This was up dramatically from $2.6 billion in 2014-2015 and $3.5 billion in 2015-2016.
Based on a media spend of $7.86 million, Colorado’s marketing campaign also created an outstanding return on investment (ROI) for the state’s investment in tourism promotion. SMARInsights found the campaign generated a record-high $534 in travel spending for every $1 of paid media, up from $478 in the prior marketing year, mainly due to an increased focus on a national audience. Colorado’s ‘Come To Life’ campaign was enhanced by nationally focused public relations and social media programs.
“Colorado Tourism continues to have one of the strongest tourism marketing campaigns in the country and continues to evolve the campaign to be more effective,” said Denise Miller, executive vice president of SMARInsights. “The result is one of the best ROIs in the U.S.  The CTO’s move to a more national campaign has paid off and is telling the Colorado story to a larger audience.  The campaign is also working to bring more families to the state, which is growing the current and future audience.”
SMARInsights also found traveler interest in legal marijuana appears to have stabilized, with approximately 15 percent of visitors participating in a “marijuana-related activity,” but just 5 percent reporting it as a motivation for their trip.
To view the full reports for Colorado Travel Impacts 2016 (Dean Runyan Associates) and Colorado Travel Year Report 2016 (Longwoods International), 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, 12 national parks and monuments, over 850 farm and ranches that are open to visitors, and 58 mountain peaks that top 14,000 feet. 
For more information or a copy of the 2017 Colorado Official State Vacation Guide, visit or call 1-800 COLORADO. 
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Media Contacts: Carly Holbrook, [email protected], 720-289-9366
                          Kirstin Graber, [email protected], 303-892-3871