GLENWOOD SPRINGS — The Colorado Tourism Office is expecting 2019 to be a banner year for tourism, given the healthy winter season we just experienced.
"We’re seeing so many indications that this is going to be a record tourism year again for Colorado!” said Cathy Ritter, Colorado’s Tourism Director.
It’s a far different scenario than what we were dealing with this time last year, when wildfires and drought kept some visitors away.
"We were sitting in a great place around this time last year… of course, there were disruptions. We’re not expecting that to happen this year,” Ritter added.
Ultimately more than 1,500 wildfires burned through Colorado during the Summer of 2018.
"At one point we were advising travelers to be cautious where they were traveling in Colorado,” Ritter said.
One of those places was Durango. The La Plata County community’s tourism was clouded by the 416 fire.
"It’s one of our main economic drivers in Durango and certainly the 416 fire is impacting our tourism partners,” a woman told us in Durango last Summer.
When you look at Durango now, it’s popping with colorado; thanks to a healthy snowpack and run-off.
"The plentiful snow we had over the winter is now translating into great conditions for white water rafting, for fly fishing and for so many sports Coloradans enjoy and people who come to our state enjoy,” Ritter said.
The Colorado Tourism Office won’t know the official impact wildfires and drought had on state tourism numbers in 2018 until a report is released in June.
But Ritter told us, she does know June numbers were down in 2018, while August numbers picked back up.
"The interesting thing is our research is showing that people delayed their vacation to Colorado, they didn’t cancel it,” she said.
While tourists dodged some areas, like the southwest pocket, they did opt for other corners of Colorado — where Ritter said visitation numbers are looking good.
"So we’re expecting record breaking spending, record breaking tax generations and so we expect all of those numbers to be rolling up to a great picture overall for Colorado in 2018,” Ritter added.
Colorado tourism numbers hit a record high in 2017 with 86 million visitors. Those visitors spent nearly $21 billion on in-state travel.
Ritter is hopeful for an even prettier picture for 2019.
“This is Colorado after all!” she said with excitement.