This is the fourth year in a row that I’ve helped with the Colorado Governor’s Tourism Conference and the 12th that I’ve attended. Nothing beats meeting face-to face, seeing friends and colleagues from around the state and beyond, and experiencing great Colorado destinations like Vail. This conference brought me full circle as the first Gov Con I attended was in 2004 at Vail Cascade Resort, which was recently fully renovated and renamed Hotel Talisa, Vail and served as the 2018 location.
Here are a few highlights from the 2018 Colorado Governor’s Tourism Conference held Oct. 29-31 and attend by 549 representatives of hotels, venues, destination marketing organizations, associations, state agencies, suppliers, media and more to learn, network and partner in promoting Colorado as a leisure and business travel destination.
Gov. John Hickenlooper announced the launch of the Colorado Trail Explorer (COTREX) app that puts data for 39,158 miles of trail and 1,431 trailheads in the hands of users across the state and is now available for free download in the Apple and Google Play stores. The COTREX app makes it easier than ever for Coloradans, groups and visitors alike to access the state’s trailheads and open space.
The Colorado Tourism Office (CTO) worked with Walking Mountains Science Center and Hotel Talisa to structure the event as the first zero-waste state tourism conference in the nation. Efforts ranged from conservation and reuse of materials to composting of food waste. Also, when checking in for the conference, each attendee was given a colorful branded and sponsored Silipint cup to use throughout the event for hold hot and cold beverages. They were a huge hit for the second year in a row.
The conference featured keynotes such as Gov. Hickenlooper, international destination marketing expert William Bakker and community activist and artist Candy Chang and a lineup of nearly 20 breakout sessions and learning labs. Plus, there were some pre-conference opportunities for community service that included working on local trails and cleaning up around waterways. It was good to pitch in a helping hand and helpful to hear about the challenges that Colorado is facing with traffic on the trails and visitors not always understanding how they play a role in preserving the state’s natural resources.
It was the first time I had a chance to see the new 2½-minute animated video with a fun jingle and vibe that takes viewers through the seven Leave No Trace – Care for Colorado Principles. A clueless hiker, critters posing for food and a musical moose/bear duo are the latest cast of characters enlisted by the CTO to reduce the impact of travelers on Colorado. The meetings and events industry needs to do its part in sharing this message with groups.
Speaking of critters, offering something unique during free time—even if it is at 6 a.m.—gets attendees up and out of bed. I’ve heard about goat yoga, but have never witnessed it. Imagine a room filled with people, yoga mats and a herd of goats that are clattering around. Even better, imagine carrying goats up the stairs and through Hotel Talisa’s athletic center for this event. They are heavier than you think!
Finally, it’s important to recognize people and groups who are positively impacting Colorado, and that is the point of the awards dinner each year. Here are the award recipients for 2018.
- Outstanding Community Tourism Initiative Award - VISIT DENVER for its statewide partnership in serving as host city for the U.S. Travel Association’s annual IPW tradeshow. Held in the Colorado Convention Center in May 2018, IPW brought 6,028 international travel trade and media together.
- Governor’s Award for Outstanding Individual Contribution to Colorado Tourism - Gary Schluter, founder of Rocky Mountain Holiday Tours, and Allison Scott, director of communications for The Broadmoor
- Chairman’s Award - Ian Steyn, former Colorado Tourism board vice chair and eight-year member
- Governor’s Award for Outstanding Marketing Program - Visit Loveland Colorado for its “Sharing the Love of Valentine Season” campaign
- Jack Snow Volunteer Award - Cy Michaels, owner of La Quinta in Trinidad and chair of the Trinidad Tourism Board
Mark your calendars for the 2019 conference to be held at the Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel from Sept. 29-Oct. 1.