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2013 Tourism Challenges in Fremont County

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(The following article is excerpted from the 2013 annual report from the Fremont County Tourism Council to the Board of Commissioners)

The 2013 tourist season was a difficult one for obvious reasons and one the Fremont County Tourism Council (FCTC) is glad to put behind us.

Despite the Royal Gorge wildfire, lodging tax revenues were actually up a bit from last year; $137,769 for 2013 vs. $136,264 for 2012.  We believe this to be due primarily to the FCTC receiving some $50,000 of funding from various sources including the El Pomar Foundation, local banks and government agencies, to implement a Tourism Marketing Recovery Plan.

With the assistance of VistaWorks, the FCTC acted quickly and decisively to create a new video and ads that were used in a media buy that ran on various platforms during the months of June, July and August.  In addition, VistaWorks and the FCTC helped the City of Cañon City to apply for and receive a $148,000 grant from the EDA to continue this marketing recovery plan into 2014.  The City has since requested that the FCTC oversee the implementation of this plan, which started in March 2014 and will continue through July in anticipation of the re-opening of the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park in August 2014.

The FCTC put the contract for marketing services out for proposals in October 2013 and received two bids, one from its existing contractor, the Cañon City Chamber of Commerce, and one from its existing internet marketing sub-contractor, VistaWorks.  The FCTC awarded the contract to Bryan Jordan/VistaWorks and we are currently fully transitioned and pleased with the services provided so far.  The major reason for the switch was to get fresh input/energy and to develop better relationships with the Colorado Tourism Office (CTO) and the Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau.  .

During 2013, the Chamber serviced 13,415 individuals for Fremont County from face to face, e-mail, & telephone contacts concerning tourism, vs. 9,762 in 2012.  Walk-ins were down 22% from 2013 but emails and calls were up 129%.

Tourism package requests in 2013 were up with a total of 10,056 packages sent compared to 5,961 in 2012.  Additional monies of $5,000 allocated by the Fremont County commissioners to the FCTC account in September provided funding to fulfill approximately 2,000 of those guide requests, which would have otherwise gone unfulfilled due to budget constraints.

The FCTC is continuing its social and mobile campaign, launched in 2012, using the services of Constant Contact and our mobile app.  This has been in the form of E-blasts that are sent out to our subscribers that we have acquired through not only our Visitor Guide but also through Facebook.

The FCTC continues to look at our presence on the internet and launched a “refresh” of our FCTC web site during 2013 in order to give us a fresher look and possibly encourage more visitors to our area.   Despite a relatively small budget for these items, unique visits to the website continue to increase with almost 560,000 unique visitors in 2013 alone (550,000 in 2012).

For the first time in several years, the FCTC was awarded a $25,000 grant from the CTO to help fund tourism efforts in 2014.  The grant application was submitted in cooperation with the City of Florence, whose piece of the grant is $10,500 for their “Imagine Florence” campaign, leaving $14,500 for various FCTC budget items.

The FCTC community funding process again this year a good number of applications returned with a total of 16 applicants.  The board this year decided to award a total of $6,250, as required by our by-laws, to 12 of the applicants that met the criteria set forth in the grant application.  The applications received were very competitive and the awarding of these grants continues to be one of the more difficult and uncomfortable responsibilities of the FCTC.

Larry S. Oddo, FCTC Chair