The Colorado Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau is the official travel and tourism Destination Marketing Association for Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak Region, and Doug Price has been its president and CEO since 2011. Originally from Ohio, Price caught the hospitality bug when he started working in the hotel business at age 18. He earned a degree in Hospitality Management from Florida International University in Miami, and started working for Marriott when the company had just 45 hotels. He stayed with Marriott for 18 years, living in six cities, then started a sales training and consulting practice. Price is a recognized public speaker and the author of three books on sales, customer service and personal change. He serves on the boards of directors of several organizations, including the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance and the the Colorado Springs Sports Corp., Price is also a member of the City for Champions core team.
Question: What it is the Colorado Springs Visitors Bureau's mission?
Answer: Our mission is to bring more visitors to Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak Region. We leverage what we have here, including Fort Carson, Peterson, the Air Force Academy; they are great demand generators for us because families come to visit their person who is stationed here.
We have 19 paid staff who work in marketing, communications, and sales, and 35 volunteers who man the visitors center. We try to help people understand that tourism pays. One of my absolute favorite ways to explain this, is this: When I tell people that tourism has $1.3 billion a year in economic impact, they have a hard time wrapping their arms around what that means, but when you boil it down to 'tourism brings $42 dollars per second to our economy,' that is a figure that's just astounding. We have a counter on our website that shows how it builds, like the debt clock in Times Square.
Q: How do you attract visitors to Colorado Springs?
A: Our sales team will attend over 40 trade shows a year, selling Colorado Springs to event organizers and meeting planners, to associations and corporations, to religious groups, to military reunions, and our huge market is sports. So the lion's share of what we do is focus outside of the Colorado Springs area, and that's one of the reasons we're not that well known locally. Our budget is pretty much geared for other parts of Colorado, Texas, and Arizona. We do print ads in meeting publications and sports magazines. When I'm out talking to local audiences, I encourage people invite friends and family to visit, but they don't have to stay with you. There is no more powerful voice than the local community to invite people to come for the Pikes Peak Hill Climb, an Air Force football weekend, or the USA Pro Cycling Challenge.
Q: What is the fastest growing part of your business?
A: Sports. It's the Mecca - particularly amateur sports, ice hockey tournaments, softball, all kids' sports where parents still travel with their kids. The President's Day Hockey Tournament is a fabulous example of an off-season business. If we had more ice, we'd even have more teams. I'm not saying sports is recession proof, but families still travel with their youth who are competing.
Q: What are your plans for growth?
A: Sports fits beautifully with our image of health and wellness. It's kind of our sweet spot/ For us it's about getting the word out about all the things that are here. Take the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. This year we're going to have a stage all to ourselves. Almost in every other city where they have these types of events, there's a start and then the competitors leave and finish somewhere else. This year we're going to have circuits that go all over Colorado Springs. This is going to be broadcast in about 160 countries. So, when we can do things that get us on the stage, the map, national or international, those events will help us grow not only audience, but with people who say "what else can we do there."
Q: What challenges have you faced?
A: It has certainly been a challenge with the two fires and the floods. We realized this was of the magnitude where you couldn't start advertising 'Hey we're open for business, we're open for fun' when people are still hurting. This last year, 2013, was the year of the City for Champions proposal and trying to convince the state that we have relied on beautiful natural resources for a long time. But things happen, and in order to stay competitive in the tourism industry, you need new attractions. The state, to their credit, really put us through our paces through this application process to prove that we weren't going to be pulling people from Loveland and Grand Junction and Denver here; that we were going to truly build attractions that would have people come from out of state. This is totally leveraging assets that we already have, and it can really help us morph into America's Olympic city, and take full advantage of the blighted southwest urban renewal areas.
Q: What affected your business more: the recession or the natural disasters?
A: 2013 was a double hit because not only did we have sequestration from government travel, but we also lost the Royal Gorge Bridge and Black Forest. This city relies on defense and the ripple effect of dealing with contractors. I would say 2013 was a particularly tough year from a public relations standpoint and from a government/business travel standpoint.
Edited for space and clarity.