The economic value of tourism to the state cannot be underestimated, but there is a fine line between attracting tourists and ensuring that they treat it with the care it deserves
At West of 105 we try to straddle the line between the tried and tested and the unknown and the yet to be discovered. We want to ensure people have the best possible time in Colorado, whether they are visiting from another part of the state or coming from the other side of the world, but we also want to make sure people visit lesser-known spots (for both sustainability reasons and because there are some incredible places, things and experiences that do not get the attention they deserve). The Colorado Tourism Office has the same task, and we spoke with CTO director Cathy Ritter about the organization’s efforts to ensure that the increasing number of visitors to our state have both a positive and sustainable time.
“Three years ago, when the CTO was developing a new state-wide strategic plan for the Colorado tourism industry, we held a series of listening sessions around the state - 23 in all - and it didn’t matter where we were in the state, we were hearing concerns about the impacts of travelers on Colorado’s natural resources,” Ritter said. “Sometimes that was expressed as concerns about impacts on water, sometimes the impacts on land, on wildlife and on special places. It quickly became clear that this was an issue that was very much on the minds of residents and tourism stakeholders, and we, as the state tourism agency, needed to develop a meaningful response to those concerns.”
A year later, and the first stage of that meaningful response had been formulated.
“The Colorado Field Guide is an online resource that contains more than 130 travel itineraries throughout the state that aim to take travelers to less visited places or to encourage people to visit popular places at different times of the year,” Ritter explains. “Every one of those itineraries includes some sort of sustainable tourism activity, too, whether it’s an educational or voluntourism activity so we can hopefully encourage and inspire travelers to visit in ways that benefit the state and protect resources.”
Visit colorado.com/colorado-field-guide to see it.
That was the first step of a multi-year plan. Ritter explains what else the CTO has been up to when it comes to achieving these sustainability goals.
“The other major initiative we undertook took a little more time to unfold because we were really interested in aligning ourselves with a highly credible organization to develop messaging to inspire travelers to protect Colorado resources while they were here,” Ritter said. “We looked around and ended up creating a groundbreaking alliance with the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics that came about in October 2017.”
The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics was founded in the early 2000s by the US Forest Service and eventually spun off as a non-profit. Under the stewardship of the US Forest Service, the seven principles of Leave No Trace were developed.
“We became the first state tourism agency to form a partnership with Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, and that became the foundation of our messaging,” Ritter says. “We spent the first few months of our partnership crafting a message to travelers based on those seven principles which have been widely embraced by the other federal public land agencies and the outdoor retail industry, among other bodies and companies.”
That messaging became known as the Care for Colorado Principles.
Since then, the Care for Colorado Principles have been spread far and wide including as part of brochure that was developed in time for the 2018 summer travel season asking visitors if the were Colo-ready. They have also been included on CTO messaging of all kinds - printed publications, on the organization’s website and via media outlets, including some truly excellent digital publications.
Perhaps the most inventive and fun way the CTO has spread the Care for Colorado Principles is through a brilliant animated video. “Care for Colorado – Are You Colo-Ready?” turns the principles into a very catchy song sung by an animated moose and a bear. You can see the video on the CTO’s Facebook page and YouTube channel. Be careful, because it really is an
ear worm and you’ll be humming it for days.
The most recent iteration of the promotion of the principles is the development of a partnership with three major tourism-based organizations: the Colorado Hotel and Lodging Association (CHLA), the Colorado River Outfitters Association (CROA), and Colorado Dude and Guest Ranch Association. Between them they encounter more than 20 million visitors every year, giving the CTO even better access to visitors to the state.
And that isn’t all. “We’ve also formed an alliance with the Colorado Association of Destination Marketing Organizations,” Ritter said. “What these broader alliances mean is that we are able to get the Care for Colorado Principles in front of millions of travelers who we hope will carry that message during their travels in Colorado.”
And it seems to be working. “A few months ago we received some interesting results from a survey of 2,500 travelers from across the US. We asked how they ranked Colorado compared to other states and destinations in terms of how it is protecting its natural resources and they ranked Colorado first,” Ritter said.
Watch the Care for Colorado video below: