Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Visitors bureau organizing second 'Welcome Back' campaign

By Wayne Heilman Published: June 14, 2013 0

Colorado Springs area tourism officials are gearing up for another "Welcome Back" ad campaign to promote late summer and fall tourist visits in the wake of the Black Forest fire, even though most local hotels are reporting no notable cancellations.

The Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau is trying to schedule a meeting for Monday to discuss launching a second phase of the campaign it started nearly a year ago after the Waldo Canyon fire to persuade leisure travelers, meeting planners and event organizers to visit or hold gatherings in the Pikes Peak region. The bureau spent $300,000 to extend its traditional advertising campaign by three months, helping it to more than double visits to its website and orders for its Visitors Guide.

"The whole community has been affected by this fire, and we realize that another campaign needs to take place. We are assembling the people at the table so we can start to have those conversations about the message and what sort of resources might be available for a campaign this year," said Chelsy Murphy, a bureau spokeswoman.

The tourism promotion agency hasn't received any reports of major convention or meeting cancellations because of the fire, nor has it noticed a significant decline in leisure visitors to the region, Murphy said.

Since Tuesday, when news about Colorado wildfires began circulating nationally, the Colorado Tourism Office has received 50 inquiries by telephone, e-mail and social media about the fires, said spokesman John Ricks.

The area's tourism industry took a big hit from the Waldo Canyon fire last year. Hotel occupancy and proceeds from a tax on hotel rooms and rental cars in Colorado Springs both declined for three consecutive months after that blaze, compared with the same months a year earlier.

The Antlers Hilton, Broadmoor and Marriott hotels are sold out or nearly full for at least the next week, spokesmen for each said, and there have been no significant convention or meeting cancellations.

The impact of the Black Forest fire is "nothing like last year," said Jim Breeden, general manager of the Colorado Springs Marriott and president of the Pikes Peak Lodging Association.

"We are still seeing strong bookings into next month and not seeing any significant drop off, so I am a little optimistic," Breeden said.

Dennis Lesko, vice president of marketing for The Broadmoor hotel, said the resort had received a number of calls about the fire and how it has affected air quality, but no one has canceled reservations. The Broadmoor is owned by the Denver-based Anschutz Corp., whose Clarity Media Group owns The Gazette.

Some of the region's tourist attractions, especially those that provide rafting trips through the Royal Gorge, have had some cancellations because of both the Black Forest and Royal Gorge fires, said Ryan Cole, executive director of the Pikes Peak Country Attractions Association. The Royal Gorge blaze destroyed several buildings connected with the Royal Gorge Bridge.

"I have quite a few (attractions) worried about the fires. Their customers are seeing the destruction from the fires on the news and have canceled visits during July as a result," Cole said. "We are doing our best to report a positive message about the region and letting people know through our website that 22 of our 25 attractions are still open, and there is still a lot of fun to be had in the Pikes Peak region."

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Contact Wayne Heilman: 636-0234 Twitter @wayneheilman

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