Call it the road to success - at least where the city of Colorado Springs is concerned.
The Pikes Peak Highway broke a 43-year-old annual attendance record Friday, with the number of people using the city-owned road up 19.5 percent from last year's annual total.
Fort Carson soldier Zackry Cary became the record-setting visitor on the 19-mile highway Friday, helping push attendance past the 1971 record of 340,329 visitors, according to a news release from the city.
About 40 percent of this year's visitors drove the highway in June and July, when attendance was up 18 percent from the same months in 2013. But most of the biggest percentage increases from last year were in the spring and fall months.
Jack Glavan, the highway's manager, attributed the record-setting number of visitors to good weather, low gasoline prices, a banner year for the local tourism industry, a 2012 expansion of the highway's toll plaza and a $20,000 boost in the highway's marketing budget that included the hiring of Salt Lake City-based GumCo as its marketing agency.
Chesly Offutt, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the record shows that Pikes Peak remains a major draw for tourists and locals.
"Pikes Peak is so accessible. You can drive or bicycle to the summit on the highway, you can ride there on the Manitou & Pikes Peak Railway or hike on Barr Trail. There are so many ways to experience it, including the recent opening of the South Slope Recreation Area," Offutt said.
Ticket sales on the railwayare up 8 percent this year and are not at record levels, a spokesman said. The number of people bicycling up the highway is up 9.5 percent from last year's annual total to 4,782.
The record comes on top of other tourism industry indicators that reflect one of the strongest tourism seasons in recent years. Collections of the city's tax on hotel rooms and rental cars are up 10.2 percent from a year ago and on track to break the 2007 record, for annual collections of $4.02 million. Hotel occupancy in the first 10 months of the year has increased to 65.8 percent from 62.5 percent during the same period in 2013, according to the Rocky Mountain Lodging Report.