State and local tourism officials hope to generate new business with old sites in the Pikes Peak region in 2007. Heritage tourism, a new trend in travel, is based on promoting places, activities, people, cultures and natural resources that authentically represent the history of an area.
Although heritage tourism sites have existed in the Pikes Peak region for decades, some local tourism officials say they’re creating travel packages, itineraries and new marketing campaigns that showcase the history, art and culture of the area in hopes of bringing more visitors — and more money — to the region. The reason for the push is that visitors interested in this type of travel usually stay longer and spend more money than the average tourist, according to a 2005 study by Longwoods International, a research firm. Colorado heritage tourists spend about $50 more per person per visit than the average tourist, and stay about two more nights because they have more things to see and more reason to stay, the study showed. Embracing heritage tourism has another benefit for locales, said Scott Campbell, Heritage Tourism Program director with the Colorado Tourism Office in Denver. When the places and histories of an area are kept intact for the sake of visitors and their money, that helps ensure that a region’s historic sites are preserved, he said. “When you look at heritage tourism, its development is not just important from an economic standpoint, but also for preserving culture and place,” said Campbell, who lives in Colorado Springs. “(The Springs is) a growing town and heritage tourism can help us preserve the history and culture of our town while we are growing.” The Colorado Tourism Office is launching a program this month for heritage tourism sites across the state to ensure they meet certain quality standards. Officials don’t want visitors to be disappointed when they visit what they think will be a historically preserved site, he said. Tourism is big business in Colorado, generating $7.3 billion annually in visitor spending, according to the Longwoods study. It directly employs 138,400 people across the state, according to a Dean Runyan Associates 2005 study. The Longwoods study also found that 8.5 million visits to Colorado had a heritage component, which equates to 34 percent of all overnight visits (whether for business or leisure) and 38 percent of all leisure overnight visits. Those who came to see heritage sites in Colorado had a more favorable impression of the state and were more likely to make a return visit, according to the Longwoods study. South central Colorado, including Colorado Springs, attracts 24 percent of the state’s overnight visitors and 35 percent of overnight visits among those visiting for heritage tourism, the Longwoods study showed. Colorado Springs has the potential to be a large heritage tourism destination because of such attractions as Garden of the Gods, Pikes Peak and Manitou Springs, Campbell said. “With heritage tourism, it’s nice because you don’t have to reinvent the wheel because it’s all here,” said Michele Carvell, executive director of Pikes Peak Country Attractions Association. “You just have to be creative and create a package that appeals to visitors.” In 2007, the local convention and visitors bureau, Experience Colorado Springs at Pikes Peak, will focus more on promoting the histories and cultures of the Pikes Peak region, said Terry Sullivan, chief executive officer and bureau president. The local tourism office was recently awarded a $15,000 grant from the Colorado Tourism Office and matched $7,500 to help the Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region develop an arts and cultural calendar and Web site. The bureau also dedicated one salesperson to heritage tourism to develop a program for the area. The bureau plans to work with the staff at the Fine Arts Center to create travel packages when traveling exhibits are on display. Other programs and partnerships will be unveiled in the spring, said Betty Jo Cardona, heritage tourism sales manager with the bureau. “To make your sites come alive with heritage tourism, it’s going to take the whole community,” Cardona said. This year, the visitors bureau will start allocating more than $15,000 to market arts and cultural events, such as the re-opening of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, and create vacation packages for visitors, said Amy Long, bureau spokeswoman. The 2007 visitors guide, to be published in February, will have more promotions for heritage and cultural tourism. Pikes Peak Country Attractions, an association that represents 29 attractions in the Pikes Peak region, is developing a co-op with tourism officials in Cañon City, Cripple Creek, Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs in 2007 to promote historic and cultural sites, Carvell said. Ideas include developing a passport, similar to one the National Parks Service has, where a visitor get stamps from various historic sites. Carvell hopes to launch a program in the spring in conjunction with the opening of the Pikes Peak Heritage Center in Cripple Creek. Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site manager Andy Morris said state and local efforts to promote heritage tourism will help get the word out about Rock Ledge Ranch, a living-history farm and museum. That’s hard for the cityowned site to do on its limited marketing budget, he said. “When we can get people through the door they are surprised and happy to see that a place like this exists and they see that history can be entertaining. That’s our challenge, to get people to come,” Morris said. “If we can get more information out to people about what we do here and other sites in the area it would be great.” The convention and visitors bureau may have missed an opportunity to capitalize on heritage tourism in 2006. It didn’t create any travel packages for the bicentennial celebration of Zebulon Pike’s attempt to climb Pikes Peak. “We raised awareness, but we could have done a better job,” Carvell of the attractions association said. The 200th anniversary was promoted by the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum with numerous exhibits in 2006. The exhibits caused visits to increase by more than 50 percent for the year, according to Matt Mayberry, museum director and manager of the city’s Cultural Services Division. The museum spent less than $10,000 on marketing the exhibits, but the amount of national and international attention the exhibits generated would have cost the museum more than $1 million in advertising, according to Mayberry. That kind of return on investment is encouraging to those who want to market Colorado Springs as a heritage tourism site in 2007, Cardona said. CONTACT THE WRITER: 476-4893 or email@example.com HERITAGE SITES Area heritage tourism attractions, as identified by Experience Colorado Springs at Pikes Peak: - Aiken Canyon Preserve - Barr Trail - Cave of the Winds - Cripple Creek Historic District - Colorado College’s Lennox House and Jackson House - Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum - Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center - Downtown Colorado Springs (architecture and street art) - Garden of the Gods - McAllister House Museum - Manitou Cliff Dwellings - Manitou Springs - Old Colorado City - Old North End neighborhood - Pikes Peak - Pikes Peak Cog Railway - Pikes Peak Highway - Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site - Royal Gorge Route Railroad - United States Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel - Van Briggle Pottery - Venetucci Farm