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Colorado breaks tourism record with 77.7 million visitors spending $19.1 billion

"Recovery of Colorado’s tourism economy is nearly double that of the national rate

For the fifth year in a row, Colorado hosted a record number of tourists who have left a record amount of cash in their wake.

The Colorado Tourism Office on Wednesday reported that 77.7 million visitors to the state in 2015 spent an all-time high of $19.1 billion, generating $1.13 billion in state and local taxes, an increase of almost 7 percent from 2014.

Colorado’s 31 percent rebound in visitation from the tourism-pinching depth of the recession back in 2009 is nearly double the national recovery of 16 percent.

Denver Post file: Keryn Douglass, from Orange County, looks over shirts August 13, 2015 at Fetch’s in Silverton.

The numbers come from a trio of state-commissioned annual surveys of Colorado visitors: Longwoods International counts the total visitors and analyzes the types of travelers Colorado attracts; Dean Runyon Associates gauges the economic impact of those travelers; and the Strategic Marketing & Research Insights group measures the effectiveness of the state’s marketing efforts.

The state's tourism boosters said the numbers prove the effectiveness of their marketing and wisdom of spending taxpayer dollars to lure vacationers.

Colorado spend about $19 million on vacation promotion in 2015, up from $17 million the previous year and up from $5.5 million in 2000, the year Colorado Tourism Office formed.

“There is a lot of evidence that the marketing campaign has a lot to do with the increases we are seeing,” said Cathy Ritter, the executive director of the Colorado Tourism Office.

Dean Runyon Associates’ state-commissioned research showed that 66 percent of the state’s visitors in 2015 paid to spend at least one night. The 19.1 million visitors to Colorado generated the equivalent of $207 in taxes for each of Colorado’s 5.5 million residents. Tourists in 2015 supported 160,000 workers who earned $5.5 billion. These are the numbers the office wants to trumpet, showing Colorado residents how short-term visitors leave a lasting impact"...

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