Report : 2011 a record year for Colorado travel

Travel and tourism in Colorado accounted for 58 million visits and almost $10.8 billion in spending in 2011 in what was a record-breaking year for the state.

Colorado also enjoyed a record 14.3 million visits in the important marketable leisure trip segment, according to the latest results of an annual analysis.

“We were extremely excited about the 2011 report, particularly with the gains in the marketable leisure segment, which confirms we’re using our tourism funding effectively and with great success,” said Al White, director of the Colorado Tourism Office.

Longwoods International, a firm that specializes in tourism research, conducts the study for the Colorado Tourism Office and Visit Denver, a convention and visitors bureau.

According to the 2011 study, visitation in Colorado rose 1 percent to 57.9 million in Colorado. Total domestic spending rose 6 percent to $10.76 billion.

At the same time, visits in the marketable leisure trip segment  rose 4 percent to 14.3 million. The gain pushed Colorado into 16th place in a ranking of the 50 states based on marketable visits.

Spending on marketable leisure trips increased 5 percent to $5.3 billion. People on such trips spent on average $370 each over the course of their trips.

Marketable trips are those influenced by marketing efforts and exclude visits to friends or relatives as well as business travel. Marketable trips offer a measure of the results of advertising and other promotional efforts.

According to the analysis, 28.9 million overnight trips occurred in Colorado in 2011, about the same as 2010, but maintaining a record level. Overnight visitors spent a total of $9.4 billion in 2011, a 7 percent increase.

The number of day trips to and within the state increased 10 percent in 2011 to 28.9 million. People on day trips spent a total of $1.4 billion, up 4 percent from the year before. Colorado residents accounted for 83 percent of those on day trips and 80 percent of spending.

After setting a record in 2010, the number of people coming to Colorado to visit friends and relatives dropped 6 percent to 11 million. Still, those people spent 7 percent more — a total of $3 billion.

Business travelers spent $1.1 billion in 2011, a 1 percent increase over 2010.

While the number of marketable overnight ski trips to Colorado dropped in 2011, the state continued to lead the market, garnering 18.6 percent of such trips in 2011.

Meanwhile, more people came to Colorado for other key segments of the travel industry, including tours, trips to resorts and special events.

Colorado maintained its ninth-place ranking nationwide as a destination for outdoor recreation with backpacking, hiking, camping and trips to national parks among the top activities.

Like Colorado, Denver experienced a record year for tourism in 2011.

According to the Longwoods International study, 13.2 million overnight visitors spent a total of $3.3 billion.

Those figures included a 17 percent jump in business travelers and a 4 percent increase in visitors on marketable leisure trips.

In addition to overnight visits, another 7.8 million day trips to Denver occurred in 2011, about 80 percent of those originating within Colorado.

Visitors on marketable trips to Denver spent an average of $114 a day, while business travelers spent $107 a day. By comparison, a visitor staying with friends or relatives spent $43 a day.

“We were particularly pleased to see that for the seventh straight year, Denver saw an increase in marketable visitors, which gave us a record-breaking tourism year,” said Richard Scharf, president and chief executive officer of Visit Denver.