Tourism workshop consensus? We’re better together than apart

Courtesy photo Russell Walters, the strategic director for the Adventure Travel Trade Association, led a group of about 25 participants from both towns through small group sessions and discussion regarding promoting tourism opportunities.

By Pat Turner
pat@theheraldtimes.com
RBC | People from both towns and chambers, local businesses, and county and state representatives came together for a tourism workshop last week.
County Economic Development Director Katelin Cook brought in representatives from the Colorado Tourism (CTO) office as well as Russell Walters, who is the North American Strategic Director for the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA). Walters led the charge and helped the group understand trends in adventure travel and how the county is in a prime position to take advantage of potential revenue opportunities.
Small group discussions helped identify local challenges and then discussed possible ways to overcome them. The Meeker folks did the exercise at Mountain Valley Bank in the morning and the Rangely folks did the same thing at Rangely District Hospital in the afternoon.
Thursday both groups came together in Rangely for the rest of the workshop to compare notes and identify commonalities and differences. The general consensus seemed to be an attitude of “wow, we have more in common that we thought.” The agendas for both towns are very similar in terms of how to promote tourism while keeping our culture safe, and increasing opportunities to generate revenue to help both towns and the county at large. Someone said, “We are stronger together!” and it’s true.
Cook has been working with Atlas Marketing to put together individual branding and marketing plans for both towns.
Walters helped the group narrow down and identify the main objectives, because sometimes with all the great ideas coming from the community members you can still “be a mile wide but only an inch deep.”
The group agreed that the focus boils down to three things, summarized as “OMG.”
O equals trails and OHVs—We have a tremendous opportunity to develop our trails to connect both sides of the county and beyond. We have great trails for motorized and primitive travel which can be used to bring people in if we will do some necessary work to promote and care for them. If we can put together some plans and packages for activities then hopefully we can bring some people in to stay at our local hotels and eat at our restaurants and shop at our stores.
M stands for marketing—The general idea is to get a plan that includes both towns and the county. We know we need more marketing, and need to expand into the digital space with excellence. So the goal is to get all the entities working together from a hub that connects us all and from which we can share and cross-promote businesses, events and opportunities.
G stands for grazer, or grazer opportunities—What, you ask, is a “grazer” and why do we want them? A grazer represents a type of tourist who likes to come into town and just graze around a bit, maybe take a short hike or a tour and then get a bite to eat and a massage for their feet. They have some cash to spend and are looking for an experience. If we can show them what great opportunities we have for recreation then they can come in and graze a bit and the towns can increase and feed off the profit. Most of our current tourists are what are referred to as “enthusiasts,” which is good, but they only come seasonally and get what they need and go. What do we do with our assets for the rest of the year? The opportunities are there but we must learn a new way to cater to a different crowd. In the words of Stephen R. Covey, we need “a new mindset, skill-set and tool-set to achieve greatness in the 21st century.”
Walters encouraged everyone to check out the Colorado Tourism Office at Colorado.com. You can upload your information for free. Last year they had more than one million visitors at the site. It also happens to be the top visited tourism website in all of the United States. They support the 10 Colorado Welcome Centers, which welcomed more than 1.2 million visitors last year. They say “the average person stays 2.6 days longer after they have been through a welcome center” and spends an average of $114 more per visit.
If your business intends to reach the national and international tourism markets, check out the ATTA at www.adventuretravel.biz and see what they have to offer on larger scale.