Colorado tourism businesses rebound in 2021, but recovery is uneven between mountains, Front Range

More than 84 million Colorado travelers spent $21.9 billion in 2021, a big increase over 2020 but below record-setting traffic in 2019.

Jason Blevins
The Colorado Sun
People gather around the Blue River in the heart of downtown Breckenridge on Thursday, July 2, 2020 ahead of the Fourth of July holiday. So far this season, local lodging companies and organizations are reporting strong occupancy numbers and are optimistic for the rest of the summer.
Elaine Collins / Special to The Daily

The Colorado tourism industry is bouncing back from the pandemic, but the recovery is not evenly distributed across the state. 

Front Range urban destinations have yet to see traffic return to 2019 levels while Western Slope mountain communities are setting all-time records.

The Colorado Tourism Office’s survey of 2021 visitors by research groups Longwoods International and Dean Runyan Associates shows visitor spending reaching $21.9 billion, a 42% increase over 2020 but still below the record $24.2 billion tourists spent in 2019. (The U.S. travel industry reported a 48% increase to $268 billion in 2021 compared with the previous year.)

Colorado’s tourism businesses hosted 84.2 million trips in 2021, up 14% from 2020 but down from the high of 86.9 million trips in 2019. Leisure travel led the rebound in 2021 while business trips, convention groups and international travel remained down. 

Of the eight travel regions in Colorado, half have not recovered to 2019 levels. Spending by visitors in metro Denver and along the Front Range was down about 19% in 2021 compared with the pre-pandemic levels of 2019. Spending in Western Slope mountain destinations was up 9% in 2021 compared with 2019. 


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