Travelers spent a record $22.3 billion in Colorado last year, state reports |

Travelers spent a record $22.3 billion in Colorado last year, state reports

Number of domestic tourists increased less than 1 percent; win-win from state’s perspective

Two men fish in the Yampa River in September. A state report says travelers spent a record $22.3 billion in Colorado in 2018.
Katie Berning

The Colorado Tourism Office touts in the first sentence of its 2018 impact report that travelers spent a record $22.3 billion in the state last year, up 6.7 percent over the previous record set in 2017.

Readers have to flip to the second page of the report to find just how many travelers bopped around the Centennial State last year. It was a record 86.2 million, an increase of less than 1 percent over the 85.7 million visitors counted by researchers in 2017.

The numbers, if not the report’s presentation, are a demonstration of state officials’ tourism priorities at work: attract “higher-spend” visitors instead of just more visitors year after year.

“That’s exactly the outcome we were trying to achieve,” Colorado Tourism Office director Cathy Ritter said. “From our perspective, the results could hardly be stronger.”

Colorado tourism has thrived since 2009. In its report, the tourism office found Colorado attracted a record-high 19.5 million overnight stays by “discretionary leisure travelers” last year. That’s a 3 percent increase over 2017 and a new record. Colorado captured the ninth largest share of those travelers among U.S. states in 2018, up from the 18th most in 2009. The state targeted leisure visitors with its “Come to Life” campaign, the report notes.

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