June 21, 2013 Updated: June 28, 2013 at 3:05 pm
Tourism officials and business owners who cater to travelers are worried the images of the Black Forest fire that spread across national news outlets will keep visitors away again this year, much as the Waldo Canyon fire did in 2012.
With the city's prime tourism season underway, Doug Price, president of the Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau, met with members of local television, radio and print media outlets Thursday, asking them to help spread the word that the fire is contained and Colorado Springs is open for business.
Price said hotel bookings in the Pikes Peak region appeared to hold steady in June but are lagging for July. Last year's Waldo Canyon fire cost one hotelier $600,000 in lost lodging revenues in less than a month, he said.
"The hotel community is worried about July and those who may have written off Colorado altogether or the Colorado Springs-Pikes Peak area because of the fire," Price said.
The Black Forest fire already is affecting small businesses dependent on tourist and resident travel dollars during the summer season, said Ryan Cole, executive director of The Pikes Peak Country Attractions Association. He said Echo Canyon River Expeditions in Ca?n City told him it usually fields 200 calls a day this time of year. Now, the office is getting about 30 calls per day.
Cole said news stories about the fire have given travelers the perception that the Pikes Peak region is an unattractive place to visit, which could force some businesses to close if the perception doesn't change.
"People aren't calling now, which is what we are really worried about for July and August," Cole said.
But perceptions take time to mold, and most people confirm their summer travel plans by early July, Price said. Attractions supported by taxpayers' dollars likely will survive a second slow summer tourist season, Cole said. But those dependent on private funding and tourist dollars may not.
"We cannot take quite as big a hit as we did last year," he said.
The visitors bureau is developing a website for residents to post their camping, fishing, hiking and other summer travel pictures to try to overcome the perception that the entire area is ablaze, said Amy Long, vice president of marketing and partnerships.
The attractions association may also offer the same type of website in the future, she said.
But none of those sites were up Thursday.
Contact Ned Hunter: 636-0275