U.S. EDA Awards $2.4 Million to Drive Colorado Tourism Industry Recovery

Grant tees up $3 million in recovery work, including $1 million in grants to stakeholders 

Jan. 19, 2021 - The Colorado Tourism Office (CTO) has secured $2.4 million in CARES Act Recovery Assistance from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA), funding recovery work that will include direct assistance for more than 30 Colorado destinations and up to 20 tourism-related industry groups.

Paired with a CTO match of $600,000, the U.S. EDA grant will support $3 million in projects aimed at driving faster recovery and long-term resiliency for an industry deeply impacted by coronavirus. The plan will fund a two-phase Colorado Tourism Roadmap to Recovery, provide two rounds of technical assistance in both urban and rural settings, and share $1 million in support for destinations and industry associations to share their new messages with travelers.

“While Colorado’s tourism industry has been quick to seek new paths for success, it has faced unprecedented challenges from the global pandemic and subsequent containment,” said CTO Director Cathy Ritter. “This first-time U.S. EDA funding for our office not only will assist with recovery, but support work to build a stronger Colorado tourism economy aligned with resident needs and interests.”

Central to the grant-funded work is the creation of a two-phase Roadmap to Recovery strategic plan. The initial Restart phase will identify strategies to drive recovery and job restoration. The subsequent Reimagine phase will focus on building long-term resilience and equipping destinations to create travel experiences aligned with new expectations and resident desires. 

As a division of the Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT), the CTO is charged with driving economic development of an industry that in 2019 attracted $24.4 billion in direct traveler spending, generating $1.49 billion in state and local taxes. CTO applied for the U.S. EDA grant last May to support tourism recovery and help offset a 39 percent cut in its annual appropriation this fiscal year.

As a first step, the CTO will post a Request for Proposals seeking a qualified consultant to create the two-phase Roadmap to Recovery as a five-year statewide strategic plan. Completion of each planning phase will trigger a round of technical assistance for stakeholders to develop local and industry-specific strategies. Ultimately, stakeholder groups will qualify for marketing support ranging from $10,000 to $20,000.

To signal a commitment to supporting recovery of destinations statewide, CTO will temporarily rename its signature Colorado Rural Academy for Tourism (CRAFT) program as the Colorado Recovery Assistance For Tourism program. The CTO will conduct a competitive process to select up to 20 Colorado-based tourism industry associations and 32 Colorado tourism destinations to take part in the U.S. EDA-funded recovery work.

While coronavirus has impacted destinations and tourism-based businesses statewide, restrictions on sports, business meetings and events, cultural arts venues, restaurants and attractions have fallen especially hard on powerhouse Front Range destinations. In 2019, the Front Range generated about 70 percent of all Colorado traveler spending, while mountain regions accounted for about 25 percent.

Tourism Economics reports that Colorado traveler spending fell by 50.1 percent between early March and late December 2020, impacting jobs, business earnings and state and local tax revenues statewide.

The CARES Act provides the U.S. EDA with $1.5 billion for economic development assistance programs to help communities prevent, prepare for, and respond to the coronavirus pandemic. To date, Florida, South Carolina and Louisiana and now Colorado have received tourism-related grant assistance.

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About the Colorado Tourism Office: The Colorado Tourism Office (CTO) is housed within the Governor’s Office as 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 and hospitality is the state’s second-largest employer. For more information, please visit https://industry.colorado.com/research.