Incentive program aims to encourage event planners to host in Colorado
Colorado is hoping that a new incentive program will encourage meeting and event planners to host their events in Colorado over the coming year.
The new program will provide 10% cash rebates — anywhere from $3,500 to $10,000 — to cover eligible costs for events and meetings held in Colorado between July 1, 2021, and Dec. 31, 2022. The initiative is meant to push planners to book within Colorado as opposed to competitor states and to retain meetings in the state when there is a likelihood of it being canceled or relocated.
Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade spokesperson Jill McGranahan said this program is one of many that came from the state’s most recent legislative session aiming to bring back the economy.
“The meeting and event industry was decimated by COVID-19,” McGranahan said. “This is just a way for us to help incentivize bringing back that industry.”
According to the state’s website, Colorado’s visitor volume was down 47.4% in March 2020, 73.8% in April 2020 and 40.4% in May 2020. McGranahan said the meetings and conventions industry is still at about a quarter of what it was in 2019.
McGranahan said the Colorado Tourism Office worked with local tourism offices, destination marketing organizations and industry businesses to determine the qualification and eligibility criteria for the program.
To be eligible for funding, events must generate at least 25 paid, overnight rooms, have hard costs of at least $35,000 and be a new event contracted on or after April 6, 2020. Events in danger of cancellation, postponement or relocation outside the state are also eligible.
Eligible hard costs include food and beverage, event space rentals and entertainment. Alcoholic beverages, hotel room costs, design work and gratuities are not eligible costs for the grants.
The $10 billion in funding was divided so that a certain percentage goes to each county within the state. Allocations were made based on 2019 lodging sales revenue, and Summit County was allocated 11.43% of funds — the second-highest allocation for a single county.
“We are working with startups, with small businesses, with industries such as tourism and hospitality and making sure that these programs that we stand up from the stimulus money go directly to economic recovery and helping small businesses get back on their feet,” McGranahan said.
Bruce Horii, director of sales and marketing at Beaver Run Resorts in Breckenridge, said many large groups come through Beaver Run for meetings and events because it is home to a large conference center.
Organizations hosting the events have to apply for the reimbursements themselves, so Horii said Beaver Run has been working to make sure those who qualify and are booked with the resort have access to information about the program.
“We want this money to be utilized to benefit our area.” Horii said. “… So (we’re) making sure they’re aware of the opportunities that they have to receive these incentive grants.”
While Horii said this program will be great to help bring back events to tourist towns like Breckenridge, the larger issue facing the industry is staffing.
“None of us are able to staff properly or have the same resources we had pre-pandemic.” Horii said. “… I don’t think the employee base is the same as it once was.”
He said Beaver Run was able to host successful conferences again starting in June and is expecting a strong fall season, as well. Horii said he predicts the industry is still about a year away from pre-pandemic normalcy, but it’s getting closer each day.
For more information on the program and to learn how to apply for funding, visit the Office of Economic Development and International Trade’s website.
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