ARCHIVED  March 1, 1997

Local visitors’ associations lack useful data on tourism

In preparation for this column, we looked for measured data on tourism, substantiated estimates or surveys of how many tourists visit Northern Colorado each year.We needed to know what attractions these tourists visited and their expenditures. Surprisingly, we found very little information; we were unable to uncover specific data on numbers of tourists and expenditures.
Northern Colorado has many attractions to capture tourist visits, including Rocky Mountain National Park, the Greeley Stampede, BrewFests, NewWestFest, Cheyenne Frontier Days, Laramie Jubilee Days, and many artist and other specialized festivals, especially in Loveland and Estes Park.
Most of these are summer events, but many people from inside and outside the region enjoy winter activities such as downhill and cross-country skiing. Visitors and locals alike take day trips for hiking, picnics and skiing, spending money on food, gas and equipment at local retail stores.
How many people come to Northern Colorado for our attractions and how much do they spend on lodging, food, travel modes, gasoline, entertainment, souvenirs, and other miscellaneous expenses? How much do locals spend to prepare for trips inside and outside the region in summer and winter?
To overcome the lack of data, we relied on what we could learn about tourism in Northern Colorado. We learned that many visitors come simply to view the scenery of the mountains and the plains and to explore our heritage.
The Fort Collins Convention and Visitor’s Bureau has a wonderful brochure that describes Scenic Circle driving and hiking excursions. We used this brochure to develop hypothetical typical expenditures for a family of four spending two nights and two days on scenic excursions with Fort Collins as their headquarters.
We learned they would spend about $80 per night for lodging. We estimated they would spend $60 each day for meals and $15 per day for gas. Their total expenditures would be $310 for their two-day visit. These are very crude estimates and do not include expenditures on souvenirs, local events, rentals, or any other expenditures that these visitors might make. We finally assumed that 100,000 families would visit Northern Colorado each year, thus directly spending $31 million.
Using this average bill of goods (expenditures), we can use the input/output model of Northern Colorado to determine the impacts of tourism in Northern Colorado. Approximately $3 million immediately leaks out of our economy because we do not refine gasoline or produce many food items in our economy. That leaves $28 million that is spent locally for food, lodging and marketing margins at the gas stations. The multiplier analysis indicates that another $40 million of economic activity is generated locally via the indirect effects.
This $40 million of indirect economic activity is evenly divided among the sectors where the direct effects occurred (mining, trade and services) and other sectors in the local economy.
The mining sector gains another $500,000, wholesale and retail trade gains almost $8 million and services gains $12 million.
The $31 million of direct sales to the tourists generates just more than 1,000 jobs in the local economy. These jobs are in the restaurants, gas stations, and hotels where the money is initially spent. The indirect effects generate another 720 jobs. These jobs are in those businesses that supply the restaurants, grocery stores, gas stations and hotels/motels that make the initial, direct sales.
The direct expenditures by tourists creates an employment multiplier of 1.72 and a wage and salary multiplier of 2.01. Expenditures to promote tourism via a tourism bureau or advertising local attractions will result in a greater monetary impact for local business than an employment impact for local workers, although both impacts are significant.
The above impacts were estimated for 100,000 visitors (families). The direct and indirect impacts are about $70 million, and most sectors of our economy benefit, either directly or indirectly.
The lodging industry is obviously the largest beneficiary, receiving almost $30 million.
There are too many gaps in our knowledge of tourism in Northern Colorado. We do not know how many visitors we have in each community, how long they stay, what they purchase, how much they spend, whether our region is their destination or a focal point for further excursions, etc.
We recommend that communities in the region combine their funding to support a survey and data collection that can be used to answer future questions about expenditures and impacts. A joint project between Greeley, Fort Collins, Loveland and Estes Park would be most effective.
John Green is a professor of economics at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. Eric Siverts is president of the Fort Collins-based Siverts & Associates.
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In preparation for this column, we looked for measured data on tourism, substantiated estimates or surveys of how many tourists visit Northern Colorado each year.We needed to know what attractions these tourists visited and their expenditures. Surprisingly, we found very little information; we were unable to uncover specific data on numbers of tourists and expenditures.
Northern Colorado has many attractions to capture tourist visits, including Rocky Mountain National Park, the Greeley Stampede, BrewFests, NewWestFest, Cheyenne Frontier Days, Laramie Jubilee Days, and many artist and other specialized festivals, especially in Loveland and Estes Park.
Most of these are summer events,…

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