Officials offer upbeat tourism outlook

Barb Bowman, left, division manager of the Grand Junction Visitor & Convention Bureau, and Mistalynn Meyeraan, marketing and public relations coordinator with the VCB, join Joe Keys, owner of Jet Boat Colorado, in his jet boat during an event at the Grand Junction Visitor Center. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)
Barb Bowman, left, division manager of the Grand Junction Visitor & Convention Bureau, and Mistalynn Meyeraan, marketing and public relations coordinator with the VCB, join Joe Keys, owner of Jet Boat Colorado, in his jet boat during an event at the Grand Junction Visitor Center. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Two professionals involved in efforts to bring more visitors to the Grand Valley expect a combination of factors to bolster business.

Key indicators, new attractions, upcoming conferences and additional airline service all point to more tourists and tourism dollars.

“I really feel like we have a lot of good reasons to be positive about tourism in 2017,” says Barb Bowman, division manager of the Grand Junction Visitor & Convention Bureau.

Mistalynn Meyeraan, marketing and public relations coordinator for the VCB, agrees. “It’s very positive.”

Several key indicators of travel and lodging have increased, Meyeraan says. Unique visits to the VCB website at www.visitgrandjunction.com rose 9.6 percent in March compared to the same month last year. The number of visits to the Grand Junction Visitor Center rose 11.7 percent on a year-over-year basis.

The number of requests for visitor guides held steady over the first quarter of 2017 compared to the same quarter of 2016.

Lodging tax on hotel and motel stays in Grand Junction has declined on a year-over-year basis, but Meyeraan attributes some of the shortfall to late collections that will result in revisions.

Bowman says she still expects lodging tax collections for 2017 to top those for 2016 by 5 percent. “We’re bullish this year.”

New attractions will help in drawing more visitors, Bowman says, including a large water attraction scheduled to soon open at Bananas Fun Park in Grand Junction. What’s billed as Coconut Cove will tower 50 feet tall and include more than 50 water play features, including slides, splash pads and arching jets. Every three minutes, a 10,000-gallon bucket at the top will tip, drenching the structure and those playing on it. “That will be such a nice addition to offer our guests,” Bowman says.

Conferences and events will bring still more visitors to the Grand Valley, Bowman says, including the 150th convention of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association in June. The Colorado Governor’s Tourism Conference in October will offer an opportunity to showcase the Grand Valley to 500 tourism and travel professionals from across the state, she says.

Meyeraan says more than 1,200 people are expected to participate in the Tour of the Moon bicycle tour of the Colorado National Monument on Sept. 30.

Motor coach tours bring more visitors to Grand Junction, and Bowman expects tours to increase.

American Airlines is scheduled to offer a nonstop flight between Grand Junction and Los Angeles starting June 3. While the service will benefit travelers headed to Southern California, the route also will help to bring more visitors to the Grand Valley. Moreover, Los Angeles serves as a crucial link with the Asian market, Bowman says. “It’s an incredible gateway for us.”

The Internet and social media have played a role in bolstering business as well, Meyeraan says. The VCB uses its website
and social media to actively engage with travelers and potential travelers, matching content with their locations and interests.

Shelly Baier, co-owner of Rimrock Adventures in Fruita, says her business enjoyed its best year ever in 2016. She expects 2017 will be even better with increasing demand for rafting and horseback riding tours, raft rentals and shuttle services for rafters.

Regardless of the attraction or activity that brings visitors to the Grand Valley — or how they get there — tourism constitutes big business, Bowman and Meyerann say.

When hotels along Horizon Drive are filled, 5,000 people are staying in that area as well as eating at local restaurants and buying goods and services, Bowman says.

The results of an analysis released earlier this year atttributes more than 5,500 jobs and nearly $140 million in annual wages in Mesa County to tourism. Tourism also accounted for $12.8 million in sales tax revenues and $1.4 million in lodging tax revenues.

That means tourism affects every local resident whether it’s directly providing jobs and wages or helping to pay for roads and other government services, Meyeraan says.

Bowman says tourism also creates what she describes as a “halo effect” in making the Grand Valley a better place to live and work, raise children and retire.