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Pikes Peak regional tourism: Repeat visitors, new hotels, and no end in sight

Annual research study shows 75% of travelers are repeat visitors, spending up to $2.9 billion
Posted at 6:59 AM, Jul 10, 2024

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Torie Giffin is the owner and operator of the Buffalo Lodge Bicycle Resort near Garden of the Gods. She said they’ve had so many sell-outs, they had to expand.

“We're actually having our best year so far,” said Giffin. “We're starting to see the return of the international traveler. But we're still mainly seeing tourists that drive here. Mainly from Colorado and other parts of Colorado, but also California, Texas, Florida, New York.”

Giffin’s resort caters to the cyclist, though others stay there as well. Located near some of the region’s top attractions, Giffin likes to say her resort allows people to “stay where you want to play.”

This month, she opened up a “glamping” section on her property with four safari-style tents. Glamping is a type of luxury camping because “we just didn't have any more rooms to sell.”

According to Visit Colorado Springs (Visit COS), the region’s tourism entity, about eight new hotels will be opening this year and in 2025. But smaller operators like Giffin aren’t concerned.

“Because we are seeing so many new hotels pop up and that just means one thing–that's great for the economy,” said Giffin. She added it’s a sign of growth and more tourists coming to the area.

Visit COS recently revealed the results of the 2023 Longwoods International Travel USA Visitor Profile study, which is a deep dive annual survey into the visitation and spending numbers in the area.

Total visitation in the region increased from 24 to 24.8 million in 2023. And total spending was up 3.6% to $2.9 billion.

“2022 was a very big recovery year for the pandemic. And so in 2023, we weren't sure just how the numbers were going to play out,” said Doug Price, president and CEO of Visit COS. “Those increases were healthy. And they were very, very good news for us.”

The Longwoods survey findings show that visitation and spending have all been increasingly higher from 2021-2023 than the pre-pandemic year of 2019.

Price said that money is spent primarily in hotels, restaurants, attractions, and arts and culture facilities.

The tourism growth also generated about $10 million through the Lodging and Automobile Rental Tax, which is divided between regional events like the Hill Climb and organizations like Visit COS, the Springs Chamber, Sports Corp, and the Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region.

According to the study, 75% of overnight travelers were repeat visitors, with 53% having visited before in the past 12 months.

“And of our nearly 25 million visitors that we had last year, almost 14 million were daytrippers. And so they come through, and they realize, ‘Oh my gosh, there's so much to do. We've got to come back,’” Price said.

Another key finding noted 36% of overnight travelers were visiting friends and family. Price said that shows a lot of civic pride from residents inviting their loved ones to visit town.

Overall, tourism remains consistent throughout the year, with the July through September months having a slight bump.

But with another record-breaking year and no signs of tourism slowing down, there might be concerns with over-tourism. After all, many come to visit to experience the outdoor activities the region offers and some may fear the trails will be overburdened.

Reservation systems are already in effect for many of the major attractions such as the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and Manitou Incline. Elsewhere in Colorado, Hanging Lake and Rocky Mountain National Park have done the same.

“Yes, we do want to grow the number of visitors. But we want to grow the length of stay,” Price said. “Have people stay a little bit longer so that they're not all in a line on a Saturday morning at 9 a.m. to drive into Garden of the Gods Park. We want to help people plan their itineraries.”

The Longwoods study is embodied by tourists like Charles Miller, who was visiting Colorado Springs with his family from Ohio.

He and his wife had briefly stopped in town decades ago and always wanted to come back. And he already said he expects they’ll return.

“If the kids have anything to say, yes,” Miller said at the Buffalo Lodge Bicycle Resort while his children played in the pool.

“We've been here two weeks, kids have been here with us for one week. So yes, they definitely want to come back. And so do we. It's just awesome to be out here.”

Email Senior Reporter Brett Forrest at brett.forrest@koaa.com. Follow @brettforrestTVon X and Brett Forrest News on Facebook.
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