The early signs are promising.
Last summer, the Waldo Canyon fire dealt a hefty blow to the area's tourism industry. But as this summer's tourist season nears, hoteliers and travel and tourist officials say they are seeing an increase in the number of vacationers inquiring about the Pikes Peak region. Last year, tourism brought $1.35 billion in direct and indirect spending to the Pikes Peak region, which includes El Paso, Fremont and Teller counties, said Doug Price, president of the Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau. Price spoke at the bureau's annual luncheon Thursday at the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame.
'Visitor guide requests are up 15 percent and the website traffic is up 80 percent, ' Price said before the meeting
But the most important number, he said, is the more than $133 million being invested by The Broadmoor hotel, the Cheyenne Mountain Resort, the Garden of the Gods RV Resort, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and other Colorado Springs-area hotels and attractions.
'It shows we have rebounded from the fire, ' he said, 'and the future looks strong. '
May hotel booking at the Courtyard by Marriott has exceeded last May's by about 10 percent, said Gene Aroznetti, general manager. He said June looks to be stable from last year and could exceed 2012 bookings because of various events like weddings and group travels.
'And we are anticipating July to be very strong, ' he said.
The Pikes Peak Country Attractions Association's website has received more than 76,000 page views since April 4, said Ryan Cole, executive director. At least 700 of those page views resulted in the downloading of the new visitors' guide introduced April 1. Requests for travel information by phone also have increased this year, Cole said.
'Inquires for vacation tips and travel information is up about 20 percent from last year, ' he said.
Inquires could continue to increase as word spreads about the association's new 'Unlimited Travel Pass. ' The pass allows visitors to enter 11 attractions within five days for one price. Attractions could be added to the pass in the future, Cole said.
The pass costs $149 for adults and $99 for children. It includes the Pikes Peak Cog Railroad, the Manitou Cliff Dwellings, the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame and the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park.
'If an adult went to all 11 attractions on the pass, they would save $65, ' Cole said.
One negative that could prove difficult to overcome is the loss of service by Frontier Airlines, Price said. Most visitors to the region come from Dallas, Phoenix, Denver, Portland and Seattle, he said. Frontier flew to all of those cities except Dallas, which is served by American Airlines. Frontier stopped flying into Colorado Springs on April 7.
'It is a body blow, ' Price said. 'You can't sugarcoat it. We are going to have to replace that air service. '
WOOING AIRPORT TRAFFIC Airport officials call it 'The Battle of Monument Hill. '
The term represents the difficulty Colorado Springs Airport officials have getting area travelers to use the city's airport instead of driving to Denver.
At the Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau's annual luncheon Thursday, Neil Ralston, the airport's planning and development manager, laid out several ideas airport officials want to implement to increase passenger traffic, such as:
Recapturing airline service to those markets once served by Frontier, which ended Springs service last month.
Provide more stable rates and charges to the airlines.
Find addition sources of revenue, such as grants, so airlines are not paying as much in fees, which could help attract other airlines.
Relocating valet parking to a more central point in the terminal.
Add a premium lane at the security checkpoint.
Add an airport frequent flyer program that earns travelers points used to pay for parking, shopping or dining.
Add an airport frequent flyer premium lounge open to flyers of all airlines.
Add a parking validation program, so if a certain amount is spent at the airport, the airport pays for parking.
Extend restaurant hours.
Add a rate calculator to the airport website to show the cost of travel is more than the price of the airplane ticket and savings that the Springs airport might provide.
NED HUNTER, THE GAZETTE
Contact Ned Hunter: 636-0275.