Dear Tourism Industry Partners,
I cannot begin to express my sorrow over the way my statement in a media interview on Wednesday was sensationalized into a falsehood that has disappointed and concerned so many valued tourism partners. I know that tourism is key to restarting the state's economic engine and the sooner we can invite travelers to visit, the sooner we support all of the businesses, large and small, that make up our industry.
To set the record straight, see below for a letter I shared yesterday with the Colorado Tourism Board, which offers a far more accurate picture of how and where I am leading the CTO. I hope it addresses your concern, and please feel free to share this with others.
Also, following the letter, please see a statement that clearly describes the CTO's plan for navigating our way to market Colorado, starting with in-state residents. Then, our goal is to extend our promotion to drive markets and ultimately to our national audiences.
Please be assured, despite what you may have seen reported in the media, that the Colorado Tourism Office remains deeply committed to supporting tourism partners and driving the restoration of the Colorado tourism economy at the earliest opportunity possible.
MAY 13, 2020, LETTER TO THE COLORADO TOURISM BOARD
Dear Board Members,
As I am sure you know firsthand, many of us are being asked to walk a fine line between reminding travelers of the marvels of our destinations and setting realistic expectations for factors beyond our control, especially the ongoing impacts of coronavirus containment.
It is true that at this moment, our state is not actively inviting visitors to come to Colorado. Many of our top attractions remain closed, and many restaurants remain shut down or limited to take-out, curbside or home delivery service. Our governor continues to ask Coloradans to avoid traveling more than 10 miles from home or gathering in groups of more than 10.
A Fox 31 story that quoted me yesterday as saying that our state is not currently welcoming travelers is true. That is our state’s official stance at this moment. But conditions are changing every day. Just this week came the announcement that Colorado reopened camping at state parks as of May 12. The National Park Service is moving to reopen Rocky Mountain National Park. The governor will be making decisions on May 25 about loosening restrictions on Colorado restaurants and lifting the order that closed our 28 ski resorts. If any of those three ski resorts that want to reopen in June get the go-ahead, we’ll make sure national news media know that Colorado slopes are open for business.
Other statements in that story were taken very much out of context. Unless public health officials hit the brakes, the fact is our state is moving along a path to a measured, thoughtful reopening that should allow for active promotion of Colorado travel this summer. With our four-phase “Wait, Ready, Set, Go” marketing plan, we are poised to promote everything from road trips to outdoor adventure to city breaks, whenever the conditions are right.
Right now, there’s no question our state is in Wait mode. The #WaitingtoCO campaign is a short-term grassroots plan aimed at inspiring travelers to keep dreaming of Colorado until we can actively promote. Many destinations are sharing this same message in a mournful way. We’ve chosen to do it in a fun way — with no paid media to save our dollars for when it matters.
As more restrictions lift and more of the tourism economy reopens, we are ready to pounce on opportunities to promote. Each of the next three phases of our plan involves active promotion — first to in-state travelers, then to drive markets and then to our high-potential national audiences. It is absolutely critical to be ready to go to market as these opportunities unfold because the competition for travelers will be fierce. It’s important for you to be ready, too.
It was also wildly misstated that the CTO would “insist” that travelers check local guidelines before traveling. We’ll certainly be encouraging that behavior with a new initiative communicating a whole new interpretation of responsible tourism — encouraging travelers to show care not only for our destinations, but for the people who live there.
At this point, neither I nor anyone can tell you the exact timeframe. But I can tell you, we may be in Dream mode right now, but we are ready to wake up our economy as soon as we can.
MAY 14, 2020, CTO STATEMENT TO MEDIA
Our priority is keeping all Coloradans and visitors to our state safe. Right now, Colorado is in the Safer at Home phase, which still discourages non-essential travel. There is no definitive way to predict how the staged reopening will affect summer travel plans. For those planning trips, we recommend keeping plans fluid, researching county restrictions before traveling, and becoming familiar with reservation cancellation policies.
The campaign we launched this week is designed to keep Colorado top-of-mind for travelers who are not yet able to visit Colorado because of COVID-19 restrictions. We hope it gives all of those who yearn for Colorado a fun outlet for expressing what they plan to get out and do when the time is right.
For additional context, “Waiting to CO!” is the first step in the CTO’s plans for a four-phase “Let’s CO!” campaign. When launched, the next step, called “Ready to CO!,” will focus on inspiring Colorado residents to explore their own state and take advantage of special offers from tourism attractions and destinations statewide. CTO will base the timing of the “Ready to CO!” campaign on guidance from state public health officials.
While we cannot predict or project what the summer travel season will look like, we know it will look different as we learn about critical social distancing practices and protocols. The Governor’s Office continues to provide guidance on all sectors including tourism.
Director of the Colorado Tourism Office