Colorado tourism suffered a $9 billion loss in 2020. Lodging properties were hardest hit. |

Colorado tourism suffered a $9 billion loss in 2020. Lodging properties were hardest hit.

Local travelers did their best to make up for lost bookings, but missing meetings and conventions did a number on earnings

Jason Blevins and Shannon Najmabadi
The Colorado Sun

DENVER — The coronavirus pandemic cost Colorado’s tourism industry nearly $9 billion in 2020.

The latest figures from the Colorado Tourism Office show travel spending dropping to $15.4 billion in 2020, down from a record $24.2 billion in 2019. That’s the lowest tally of visitor spending since the depth of the recession in 2011.

According to the annual report by travel research firm Dean Runyan Associates, Denver took the hardest hit in 2020, with a 56% decline in traveler spending. The top five counties for tourism in Colorado — Denver, Summit, El Paso, Eagle and Arapahoe — saw a 43% decline in visitor spending. All the other counties in Colorado saw a 20% decline.

The largest loss in 2020 was endured by lodging properties. Spending on hotels, motels and inns dropped 36% to $3.3 billion in 2020, from $5.2 billion in 2019. Restaurants and bars endured a 24% decline in spending, according to the Dean Runyan report.

Business at Antlers at Vail ground to a halt when Vail Resorts closed because of the burgeoning pandemic in March 2020, general manager Magda King said. Prospective guests tried to cancel their reservations and asked for refunds totaling some $500,000 in bookings.

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