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Tourism office keeps head above water

Jane Stebbins

BRECKENRIDGE<3I broke from the herd in Colorado, says a man atop a horse.3I did the unexpected in Colorado, says a woman whose footsteps dimple the windswept sand along a ridge in the Great Sand Dunes.3I was out of my body<frequently<in Colorado, says a kayaker plunging through whitewater.3I became part of the ecosystem, says a mountain biker splashing through a mud puddle.The authors had two goals in mind when writing those statements: invoke mental images of the possibilities Colorado has to offer<and conduct damage control after the terrorist activities of Sept. 11.And it worked, said Will Seccombe, vice president of advertising for PRACO, the advertising firm hired by the Colorado Tourism Office. He and other representatives spoke to marketing officials in Breckenridge Wednesday afternoon, outlining state marketing and advertising campaigns launched after Sept. 11.Advertising gurus didn1t have much time to develop those plans.3We approved our marketing plans on Sept. 10, and we woke up the next day and the world had changed, Seccombe said. 3We had an incredible challenge last year in terms of tourism in Colorado.The business of tourism has changed, he said, but marketing efforts put in place in October<mostly trying to lure the in-state resident and others within a day1s drive of Colorado<have paid off in the months since.The state implemented a three-pronged approach to offset the damage done to the travel industry after Sept. 11. It included developing a Web site, colorado.com; printing a year-round vacation guide<to be distributed this spring<and promoting 3Great Deals in the state.The Web site is becoming increasingly popular, Seccombe said, with tens of thousands of visitors returning.But it1s the Great Deal promotion that really grabbed consumers.Almost 11,000 people requested information about the 200-plus 3great deals offered on the state Web site, said Shannon Porter, account supervisor at PRACO. A direct mailing distributed throughout the nation garnered a 17 percent response rate; the normal rate is 1 to 2 percent.3Consumers are definitely in control of the travel business, Seccombe said, noting the days of Saturday-night stays and mid-week flight requirements are over. 3They know they are going to get a deal, they know they can call at the last minute and get what they want. That1s not going to go away.The Breckenridge Resort Chamber is seeing many of the same things the state tourism office is, said Jen Radueg, director of public relations for the chamber. Instead of booking vacations months in advance, people are calling the last week or two before their planned arrival date. Additionally, the drive market has been lured to the mountains.Radueg said the winter season ended up better than most thought it would.3We1re finishing strong with Spring Massive; reservations are on a pretty even keel compared to last year, she said. 3Considering everything<the surveys after Sept. 11, people saying it1s going to be horrible, the market1s down, the economy1s down<we did pretty well for this season.Now, Seccombe added, the tourism office needs to fight to maintain its market share nationally. The office has lost about $200,000 in the state budget-cutting process this year, but expects to have about $6 million to spend in the next year.Jane Stebbins can be reached at 668-3998 ext. 228 or jstebbins@summitdaily.com.


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