COLORADO SPRINGS — The Colorado Tourism office says it's launched its first-ever campaign designed not to attract visitors to the state, but rather keep them pining for Colorado from the safety of their homes.
However, the campaign is being met with mixed reviews. It's called "Waiting to CO!" and CTO says it's the first of a four-phase marketing campaign with the goal of trying to get people geared up for travel again. But - some local businesses who depend on tourism say it's something they can't support.
Abby Leeper, communications manager for the Colorado Tourism Office, said, "Right now Colorado is in the safer-at-home phase which means that non-essential travel is still discouraged and folks are encouraged to recreate and travel within 10 miles of their home."
Between orders like this and with so many businesses still not allowed to reopen Colorado's tourism economy is taking a major hit.
Leeper said, "What we're hoping to do with "Waiting to CO!" is really inspire folks to think about what they can't wait to do once they can get back out there."
So CTO says it's welcoming people to share their pretend Colorado travel moments with the world by posting a photo or video on social media with the hashtag #WaitingtoCO.
Leeper said, "We've seen some great creativity from users whether it's putting a kayak down a flight of stairs in one's home or recreating a dog-friendly brewery in a backyard...we want to make sure that once it's safe to travel and once its safe to reopen that folks think of Colorado first."
While CTO is calling it "Waiting to CO!" other people like Kelly Pascal Gould feel the campaign is more of a "stay away from Colorado campaign." She's the spokesperson for the Royal Gorge Route Railroad which has been shut down since March 16 and hopes to reopen by by May 23.
"What they're effectively doing is putting a barrier around the state of Colorado."
While she says she understands the intentions and that health and safety is the top priority "we really believe we have to balance that with our real economic needs and I think there are ways that we can do this well and still allow people to visit Colorado."
She shared that she wants people to come to the state right now.
"I think that would be okay. Again - with the right intentions, with the right precautions."
Peggy Gair, public relations manager for the Royal Gorge Bridge & Park, said, "Tourism is our sole business and this message is not pleasing to hear, but we totally get it."
She says the park closed on March 23 and only had cars on the bridge. After that, it shut down totally and then reopened May 4 to again - cars only.
"People love it. It's been popular...it's brought some income, but obviously it's not enough."
Her message to everyone: "I know that we're all antsy to get out and do things, but again, we're America's bridge. We want Americans safe and healthy."
Still, she's reminding people that right now "we are the perfect venue to visit."
In regards to the concern from businesses Leeper said, "This is just the first of a four-phase marketing campaign from the Colorado Tourism Office and this phase is designed to keep Colorado top-of-mind with travelers."
As far as the campaign CTO says the second phase will be called "Ready to CO!" which will focus on inspiring Colorado residents to explore their own state and take advantage of special offers from tourism attractions and destinations. CTO says it will base the timing of that phase on guidance from state public health officials.