Colorado Springs and Colorado are great places to live. But they're also fantastic places to visit.
That's the message local and state tourism officials touted Monday as they kicked off National Tourism and Travel Week, holding a rally on the steps of City Hall in downtown Colorado Springs.
Against a backdrop of outdoor enthusiasts rappelling down the walls of City Hall and others dressed in fishing and cycling gear, about 100 members of the public and news media gathered to hear tourism's economic benefits.
For the Pikes Peak region, the industry pumps $1.35 billion a year into the economy as visitors spend money at hotels, restaurants and attractions that also employ almost 17,000 people; statewide, the numbers are $18.6 billion and more than 155,000 jobs.
But besides being a jobs creator and economic engine, "people get educated when they travel to different parts of the country," said Doug Price, president and CEO of the Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau.
State officials held a similar tourism rally earlier in the day in Denver, and then rode a bus - a rolling billboard of sorts covered with scenic Colorado landscapes - to the Springs. The tourism entourage planned stops in five more Colorado cities the rest of the week.
"We are spreading the good word about the positive impact that tourism has on the state of Colorado," said Cathy Ritter, director of the Colorado Tourism Office.
Springs Mayor John Suthers took the opportunity to extol the city's recent run of accolades, such as being ranked this year as the nation's fifth best place to live by U.S. World News & World Report and a ninth-best ranking for downtown by Livability.com.
He also talked about other recent big-picture successes for the city - Frontier Airlines' decision to resume air service at the Colorado Springs Airport, new employers and the branding of the Springs - home to the U.S. Olympic Committee - as Olympic City USA.
"The fact of the matter is, Colorado Springs is on a roll," Suthers said.
When it comes to promoting tourism, Price said more advertising is needed as the Pikes Peak region competes with other markets. Local residents can help, too, by inviting friends and family to visit, he said.
"Don't have them stay at your house," Price added. "Have them stay at a hotel."
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