Jul 21, 2014 8:06 PM by Zach Thaxton
Following two summers where it seemed like things couldn't possibly get worse -- and then kept getting worse -- tourism leaders in the Pikes Peak region say they're happy and relieved that the 2014 summer tourism season is normal, for a change.
"We really just wanted a normal year this year, and we're experiencing that," said Ryan Cole, Executive Director of Pikes Peak Country Attractions. Cole says visits are up 14 to 16 percent across all their attractions compared to 2013. "We actually ask them to compare them to 2011 numbers, which is the last 'normal' year we had in this region, and they're still up," Cole said.
Cave of the Winds is experiencing immediate benefits from its recent national television exposure on NBC's Today show, which featured its new Terror-Dactyl thrill ride. "A lot of people have pointed out that they saw it on TV," said Cave of the Winds Human Resource manager Anne Tilley. But even without the Today exposure, Tilley says numbers are up significantly over the past two summers. "No natural disasters has helped a whole lot," Tilley said.
The Waldo Canyon Fire in 2012 and subsequent catastrophic flooding in its aftermath, as well as the Black Forest Fire in 2013, put southern Colorado in the national spotlight for all the wrong reasons. "This year has been a fantastic relief," said Tim Haas, General Manager at Garden of the Gods Trading Post in Manitou Springs. "The last two years have been challenging not only for people in the community, but certainly the businesses."
Visitor numbers are up and so is visitor spending. "As long as those two number keep going up, we're happy and the attractions are happy," Cole said, "and that's what we're seeing right now."