Top 7 ways to improve Colorado tourism: Are you listening, Visit Denver?

Bill Ritter.
Best line at last night's twelfth annual Tourism Hall of Fame Dinner: "When you quit being governor, no one writes talking points for you." So said former Governor Bill Ritter, who was one of the inductees last night, along with Cleo Parker Robinson and Terry Sullivan, the retired CEO of Experience Colorado Springs.

But Ritter did just fine without any hired help, talking about how tourism is an industry that reaches "through your heart, not your head."

And I was definitely not using my head when, during a lull in the action, I started spilling some of my ideas for marketing Colorado to my Visit Denver tablemate. He dismissed most of them out of hand. But then, this man is also a professional booster who declared, and I am not making this up, "We're going to be the new Scotland" -- a nod to Colorado's increasing role as a hub for distilleries, not this state's love of plaid.

I detail three of these ideas in this week's Westword. But last night, in hopes that at least one would hit my hard-hearted target, I promised seven. And they are:

1) Ditch all the earlier, awful slogans for marketing this state and return to "Colorful Colorado." Hang a campaign on those words that highlights some of this state's colorful locations and characters -- which we have in abundance, starting with our new governor. It worked with the Visit Denver "Ask the Locals" campaign, which this same booster graciously credited me with creating during another marketing rant a few years ago.

2) Put Colorado-centric shops -- featuring products, including food and crafts actually created in this state -- at Denver International Airport, with satellites at the Colorado welcome centers, on the 16th Street Mall and anywhere else that will staff one.

3) Set up Colorado craft-beer kiosks in the concourses at DIA, where travelers can not only get a taste of this state's microbrews, but also pick up some canned Colorado craft beer to take home as a souvenir.

4) Turn one of the empty storefronts at DIA into a little movie theater, where Colorado attractions can show their films in an endless loop for travelers with a little time on their hands -- and a lot of curiosity about this state. The Garden of the Gods' new movie, which I caught last week, would be a perfect starter.

5) New York has its Manhattan, Kentucky the Mint Julep. What does Colorado taste like? We're holding a contest to find out -- one that will celebrate all those Colorado distilleries. It will culiminate in a weekend celebrating the art of cocktail culture at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver in June. Read all about the Colorado Cocktail Contest here.

6) Voters have already upped the limits in the three mountain towns where gambling is allowed, and casinos can now run 24/7... but those casinos still have to issue last call before 2 a.m., and the casinos stay dry until 7 a.m. Change the liquor laws to allow drinking 24/7, to encourage gamblers to spend the night, empty out whatever's left in their pockets -- and stay off the streets.

And finally, one that isn't really a tourism campaign, but would help out a true growth industry in this state:

7) Although medical marijuana is legal in Colorado, banks operate under federal law -- and increasingly, MMJ businesses report trouble just doing basic banking in the state. Other states have state banks; Colorado could set one up to help these legal businesses do their business (and make some money in the process).

There: seven talking points for jump-starting expanded tourism efforts. Potshots welcome!

More from our Calhoun: Wake-Up Call archive: "Top 10 list of Colorado movies a ten-cent ticket fee didn't subsidize."

Sponsor Content

My Voice Nation Help

"Hang a campaign on those words that highlights some of this state's colorful locations and characters -- which we have in abundance, starting with our new governor" -- I hope that this is the subject on which we disagree most, Pat. Hickenlooper is colorful?!? If this bland pol (who is so insecure about advancing ideas that he constantly, rhetorically seeks validation from his audiences -- "Right?") seems like a colorful character, you may be colorblind (and hallucinating).


More than 24/7 booze, I think the casinos could bring in more people if they offered events that attracted a wider variety of demographics. When I drive through Central City and Black Hawk all I see are senior citizens and what appear to be the lower end of the earning scale. Food offerings are extremely narrow/dull and entertainment is far from cutting edge.


There's always Mike the Headless Chicken and the Frozen Dead Guy.


I think "light-headed" might a fairer description of the tourism official, than hard-hearted, but moving past that, here's why Denver will be the "new Scotland" in the culiniary world.

Denver is already recognized as one of the world's great beer cities. After all, we have the largest single brewery on the planet (Coors); the largest beer festival on the planet, certified by Guinness World Records, (the Great American Beer Festival, which is also the most prestigious American beer competition -- where, incidentally, Colorado won more medals than any other state); and Colorado makes more beer than any other state.

Now, we are about to take that a step farther with the growing revolution of distilleries in Colorado. Not familiar with them? Let Patricia Calhoun tell the story from a previous column, describing a distilled spirts tasting arranged for the Colorado Press Association: "And while press folk have the reputation of being hard drinkers, they weren't used to drinking the hard stuff made in this state. In fact, few knew that Colorado had any distilleries -- much less well over a dozen."

Actually, there are 16 now -- and growing. Just as the water flowing in sparkling rivers over the Scottish moors forms the basic classic ingredient in Scotch whiskey, the water tumbling down from the Rocky Mountains is what first attracted brewers to Colorado. Now that we have one of the best collections of brewers in the world, it's only natural that the state move into the sister area of distilling...something you will soon see the world calling Colorado the "New Caledonia of Distilling."

As for the other ideas, they're all great! That is, they'd be great for private businesses to pursue, not a tax-supported, non-profit trade association. But we would support and promote these businesses.

Except maybe drinking 24 hours a day at casinos. Within a stone's throw of the casinos, there's river rafting, mountain biking, hiking, fishing, exploring gold mining sites, horseback riding .... do we really need to let people drink 24-7? Even if they are drinking wonderful Colorado distilled spirits, a break now and then might be a good idea.

Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts

As a Western Slope native, I always love a nice Mike the Headless Chicken reference. Thanks, rain.

Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts

Rich, thanks for the post. We're going to make it an upcoming Comment of the Day. Congrats.

Now Trending

Denver Concert Tickets

From the Vault