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Colorado Springs saw record number of visitors in 2015, study finds

November 2, 2016 Updated: November 2, 2016 at 7:29 pm
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Cody Lacasse and Jade Ashmore (right) take a selfie on the balcony of the Garden of the Gods Park Visitors Center on Thursday, August 25, 2016. They were visiting the area from Bay City, Michigan and really were enjoying all the things to do. Carol lawrence, The Gazette Carol Lawrence, The Gazette

A stronger economy, efforts to improve air service and effective marketing combined to make 2015 a banner year for Pikes Peak region tourism, as a record number of visitors spent a record amount at hotels, restaurants and attractions, a study by a travel and tourism research firm shows.

The study, by Canadian-based Longwoods International, confirms what local tourism officials had heard anecdotally from industry members, said Doug Price, president and CEO of the Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Now, based on what they're hearing from industry members this year, and with city lodging and auto rental tax collections up by more than 15 percent through September and serving as a strong indicator, tourism officials expect 2016 to set more records, Price said.

Improved local, state and national economies have helped make business and leisure travel a priority for many people.

Meanwhile, the Colorado Springs Airport has sought to attract more flights by lowering costs that airline operating costs and by offering more passenger amenities, such as a premier lounge for frequent fliers and free holiday parking. While those efforts didn't necessarily pay off last year, Frontier Airlines' return to the Springs Airport this year is helping to boost boardings.

At the same time, Price said marketing efforts locally and by the Colorado Tourism Office also are paying off. The boost in local tourism activity has tracked closely with statewide trends, he said.

"As the fifth most desired state to visit, we benefit so much from what the state is doing in inviting people to come," Price said. "We're more than getting our fair share of the market for people that are coming to Colorado."

The Longwoods International study is based on random surveys of adult travelers in the U.S., and those findings are projected over a larger population.

Its 2015 travel study included an analysis of a little more than 337,000 trips nationally - 237,555 overnight trips and 99,609 day trips. For Colorado Springs, Longwoods' analysis included a look at 1,421 trips made to the area last year - nearly 1,000 of which were overnight stays and about 450 of which were day trips.

Highlights of Longwoods' findings for Colorado Springs and the larger Pikes Peak region - covering Teller and Fremont counties - include:

- 20.5 million people visited Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak region in 2015 - 57 percent of whom made day trips and 43 percent who stayed overnight. While the Convention and Visitors Bureau doesn't have similar studies for every year to use as a comparison, it believes the 2015 figure is a record high for the number of visitors to the area, Price said.

- Visitor spending last year in the Pikes Peak region totaled $1.98 billion, another record high, Price said. The previous high for the area was $1.35 billion, tourism officials say.

- Overnight travel to Colorado Springs has increased by 25 percent since 2011, compared with a national growth rate of 11 percent.

- Respondents most often cited a visit to see friends and relatives as the reason for their overnight trip to Colorado Springs.

- Of visitors who stayed overnight in the Springs, the top markets from which they traveled were elsewhere in Colorado, California, Texas, New York, Illinois, Florida, New Mexico and Kansas.

- 21 percent of overnight trips originated from residents of Denver, Colorado Springs and Pueblo. That reinforces the benefits of marketing to local and state residents, according to Convention and Visitor Bureau officials.

- The average length of a trip to Colorado Springs was five nights compared with the average U.S. trip of four nights.

- Summer is a predictably popular time to visit the Pikes Peak region; about one-third of respondents cited the July to September period as the time they visited. However, the area also drew visitors year-round; 26 percent of respondents said they visited from April to June; 22 percent came from October to December; and 20 percent visited between January and March.

- More than half of overnight visitors indicated they had visited the Springs at least once before, and a large majority had done so in the past year.

- Pikes Peak travelers said their most popular activities were shopping, seeing a state park, visiting a landmark/historic site, hiking, fine dining and visiting museums.

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Contact Rich Laden: 636-0228

Twitter: @richladen

Facebook: Rich Laden

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