Rina Eisenberg, of Atlanta City, N.J., was just one of the many visitors who flocked to Cortez and surrounding areas during this years tourism season.
It was absolutely amazing, Eisenberg said about her visit to Mesa Verde National Park. As a matter of fact, we went up there yesterday, and then came back up a second time to see it again.
As the tourist season wrapped up and the number of visitors began to dwindle, locals were hard at work assessing just how successful the season has been.
Despite a struggling economy, visitation at local tourism hot spots, such as welcome centers, Mesa Verde National Park and area hotels were up from last year. But the citys lodgers tax revenue was down 5 percent from last year, according to September statistics.
The 5 percent drop isnt significant, and the lodgers tax revenue is just one of many indicators to the success of this years tourism season, according to Mesa Verde Country Tourism Director Lynn Dyer.
Basically, what the trend is this year, is that people want to travel but theyre spending less money, Dyer said.
City of Cortez Finance Director Kathi Moss agreed, stating that the numbers likely mean people are traveling through Cortez, but not staying in the hotels as much.
Were also getting a lot of regional travelers because people are still traveling but theyre spending less money, Dyer said. So theyre traveling regionally and as economically as possible.
Lodging tax revenue being down despite an increase in visitation could also indicate area hotels have had to discount their prices in order to fill more rooms.
But I dont know if thats whats going on or not, Dyer said.
Another indicator of the success of this years tourism season are monthly sales tax revenues for the city, which were up 2 percent for the year to date in September. When factoring for inflation, the numbers show sales tax revenues held steady, Moss said.
In comparison to other parts of the country that have been consistently and significantly down, and in this economy, the way it has been the past couple years, its good that were holding our own, Dyer said.
Visitation throughout the area has also held its own. Statistics indicate more people visited the area this year than last.
Our total visitation for the year to date is up 3.17 percent from last year, said Mesa Verde National Park Management Support Specialist Betty Lieurance. This October, we had 522,428 visitors (for the year-to-date total), and the same month last year we had 506,368 (for the year-to-date total).
The area also saw an increase in international travelers who likely took advantage of the weak dollar.
The Canadian market has taken off because the state has more representation in Canada now, Dyer said.
Colorado Welcome Center visitation numbers supported this as well. Besides visitation to the Colorado Welcome Center being up 5 percent for the year to date in October, the center also saw a lot more international visitors and visitors from Texas than from Colorado, according to Colorado Welcome Center Manager Tiffany Alexander.
This year was weird, Alexander said. We saw a lot more foreign visitors.
Mancos visitor center and gift shop also saw an increase in tourists, according to Mancos Chamber of Commerce officials.
They tripled their centers visitation and doubled the sales out of their gift shop, Dyer said. They think some of that has to do with their new location, but theyre very happy. And of course the balloon festival was a big event and had a positive impact on Mancos.
Numbers of tourists were up 13 percent for the visitor center in Dolores, according to Dyer. And the Anasazi Heritage Center saw an 11 percent increase, and their tour bus numbers also increased, Dyer said.
Despite city lodgers tax revenues being slightly down, hotels also saw increased visitation in comparison to last year.
Id say we were a lot busier than last year, Tiffany Neely, director of sales at Best Western in Cortez, said. And we had a lot of international tourists compared to last year.
Far View Lodge in Mesa Verde National Park had more visitors this year than last, according to Thelma Dena, director of sales and marketing for Far View.
We saw an increase in park visitation, RVers and campers, and occupancy at the Far View Lodge compared to last year. Our guided half day tours within the park were also up over last year, We saw a slight increase in international visitors primarily from Canada, while our domestic travelers consisted mostly of families. All around, we saw positive growth, which is also indicated in our Facebook fan base, Dena wrote.
Another local trend seemed to be the disappearance of a shoulder season. Tourism during the early and late summer months used to be slower, but this seasons numbers in early and late summer were just as strong if not stronger than the middle months.
Our busiest month was September, Neely said of their occupancy at Best Western.
Everybody seems to feel like the year overall was strong, Dyer said about the areas tourism after coming from a monthly meeting with Mesa Verde Countrys tourism partners, Hunting season also isnt over yet and that brings in a lot of income to the area, Dyer said. Well know more about that later this year.
Reach Nathalie Winch at [email protected]