Last summer, during the months that should have seen the strongest tourism traffic, the High Park Fire shut down roads, parks and businesses, keeping tourists both from within Colorado and elsewhere from their favorite summertime activities in Rocky Mountain National Park, Pingree Park and elsewhere.
Although the fire was extinguished in the early days of July, many mountain businesses weren’t able to salvage their tourism season.
Looking ahead, hospitality interests are cautious in their optimism.
“It depends on the amount of snowfall (this winter), but I think we’ll be able to get back to a normal tourism season next year,” said Ben Costello, manager of Mountain Whitewater Descents, which was forced to close for three weeks during the High Park Fire.
Jim Clark, CEO of the Fort Collins Convention and Visitors’ Bureau, also is looking forward to a better year.
“Overall, the industry has had really good growth locally, statewide and nationally,” Clark said. “As long as there are no fires next summer, we should have a much better leisure season in 2013.”
One factor that should ensure stronger tourism numbers in 2013 is the USA ProChallenge bike race. Thanks to a winning bid submitted by Northern Colorado, the sixth leg of the internationally-televised race will be staged here.
The 2013 race is scheduled for Aug. 18-24 and should offer a significant PR boost for Northern Colorado, especially in light of the negative attention that the fire brought.
In 2012, the race garnered more than 31 hours of airtime on NBC and NBC Sports Network in the U.S. It also was broadcast internationally to 175 countries worldwide.
“Just think of the views (in Estes Park),” Clark said. “Those would make for amazing TV visuals.”
Even without the race, the hospitality industry seems bullish about the year ahead.
New hotels have broken ground in Greeley, and the City of Fort Collins has received bids for the construction of a downtown hotel of its own. Also, some $12 million in improvements are in the works at three Marriott hotels in Fort Collins, following the 2011 sale of the properties to Southwest Value Partners.