Colorado Tourism Office discusses international travel’s growth at annual conference in Vail | SummitDaily.com

Colorado Tourism Office discusses international travel’s growth at annual conference in Vail

Scott N. Miller
smiller@vaildaily.com

A group of visitors from Panama donned dirndls and lederhosen for the Oktoberfest celebration in Vail Village in September. Vail Resorts is putting some of its marketing muscle into the Panamanian market, aided by a direct flight from Panama City to Denver. The company is working to tap into a growing market for international travel to the U.S.

VAIL — Those looking to grow Colorado's tourism market are increasingly looking to other countries. That market is lucrative, and multiplying.

The Colorado Tourism Office this week is hosting the annual Governor's Tourism Conference at the Hotel Talisa in Vail. A Monday session at the conference was dedicated to talking about the state's strategies to tap into those booming markets.

That growth is coming even as there are headwinds facing international travel, according to presenter Chris Adams, director of online research and marketing with Miles Partnership.

Adams said his firm's research for the state tourism office shows the continued strength of the dollar is a hindrance to some.

So is the perception — spurred by mass shootings and other incidents — that it might not be safe to travel in the U.S.

Other potential hurdles include competition from other nations.

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Still, international visitation to Colorado has shown solid growth in this decade.

Data provided by Colorado Tourism Office director of international tourism Andrea Blankenship shows double-digit percentage growth between 2012 and 2017 in visits from the state's leading international markets.

Mexican travel is growing

Mexico leads that growth in numbers increasing more than 60 percent between 2012 and 2017. Growth from China has more than doubled in the same period.

That growth in international visits will increase in the coming years as the population of the world's middle class grows, particularly in South America and Asia.

To grab a share of that growth, state officials are working on several strategies, from education to occasional partnerships with other destinations.

Education is important, Adams said.

People in other countries are sometimes hard-pressed to identify what attractions are where in the Western U.S.

For instance, a word cloud generated from a survey of visitors from China had "Grand Canyon" prominently featured.

That's understandable, Adams said, since in Chinese, "Grand Canyon" translates roughly to "Colorado Canyon," since the Colorado River flows through the canyon.

Adams said the main goal of marketing to other nations should be to get visitors to the West.

Partnerships with Utah and Arizona could help get those visitors to the attractions they're interested in.

But research also shows that Colorado has a lot of what interests international travelers.

People in other countries want to visit American national parks — the idea of national parks originated in this country, Adams said.

Others are interested in finding peace and quiet outdoors, and the culture of the American West.

Adams noted that the attraction to the West is particularly strong in Germany. German author Karl May never visited this country, and he died in 1912, but Adams said his books about the West are strong sellers even today.

Sell Colorado, then Vail

The Vail Valley Partnership, the area's chamber of commerce, is the host chamber of this week's conference. Partnership CEO Chris Romer said the state is doing a good job of international marketing.

"It's better than it was three years ago, and that was better than three years before that," Romer said.

Romer said the state's efforts are essential, since international marketing is a job too big for a chamber, or even a lodging group, particularly when it comes to working across languages and cultures.

Romer said the Vail Valley depends in large part on Vail Resorts' international marketing efforts.

"They're really carrying the water for the community," Romer said. "They need to. It's complicated, and it's expensive."

Vail Valley businesses benefit from all those efforts, Romer said.

"You need to sell Colorado before you sell Vail and Beaver Creek," he said.

And those efforts are well worth the work, he added.

"These are emerging markets, and there's a lot of money there," he said.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at smiller@vaildaily.com and 970-748-2930.

By the numbers

90 percent: Portion of the world’s middle class that lived in North America or Europe

85 percent: Portion of the world’s middle class that will live in Asia or South America.

1.2 billion: Potential market for foreign travel.

30,000: People who have flown this year on a direct Norwegian Airlines flight from Paris to Denver.

Source: Colorado Tourism Office

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