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Colorado Springs officials update local tourism impacts of COVID-19 pandemic

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- Visit Colorado Springs, the city's convention and visitors bureau, held an online briefing Wednesday to provide an update on how the COVID-19 pandemic affected the local tourism industry last year and what the forecast is for this year.

The hourlong briefing, titled "Tourism Talks," was hosted by Doug Price, president and CEO of Visit Colorado Springs.

Price said that based on collections from the areas's LART (Lodgers and Automobile Rental Tax), tourism revenue dropped by around 40% last year and the decrease has continued through February of this year. March figures aren't available yet, and more detailed numbers about 2020 are expected next month.

However, Price said that the industry should fare much better in the second half of 2021.

"If the success we've seen from Southwest Airlines since it started at our airport in March is any indication, th second half of this year should be stronger," he said. "Plus, more people are getting vaccinated and that's increasing the confidence people have to travel."

But significant improvement remains, Price emphasized, with 43% of adults over the age of 16 having received at least one vaccine shot -- well below the goal of 75% by Independence Day.

"We need everyone's help to reach that goal in the next two months," he said.

Price also asked that tourism businesses update their online information about mask mandates, vaccinations, COVID restrictions and any impacts to services so that potential tourists can be prepared to make the best travel decisions.

"With all that's happening this summer -- the return of the Cog Railway, the opening of the new Pikes Peak summit house, the city's 150th birthday -- we're recommending that visitors spend an extra day here, because you can't see and do everything in one day."

Price said that the state's 5-Star program for businesses taking extra measures for protection against COVID is basically "on" hold since the state ended its use of the COVID risk level dial last month, but that indoor events of more than 500 people still require special approval.

The state tourism office, he said, will use $2.4 million in federal CARES Act funding to develop a "Roadmap to Recovery" that will further help the tourism industry recover from the pandemic.

"The Legislature is working on a meeting and events incentive bill that will encourage groups to book their meetings, conferences and other events in Colorado," Price said. "We'll be following the progress of that, although it wouldn't help us until the second half of this year and probably more into next year."

Overall, Visit Colorado Springs reports an increased interest in resuming travel, with its website traffic up 71% from a year ago, and its trip planner tool up 35%.

Wednesday's briefing comes during National Travel and Tourism Week, and Price said that his agency will focus on a different aspect of tourism each day.

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Scott Harrison

Scott is a reporter for KRDO. Learn more about Scott here.

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