Colorado Tourism Director: Marijuana Is Not A Major Draw For State

Colorado has no interest in marketing to what officials consider an insignificant niche of marijuana-seeking visitors, the state’s tourism office director said on Thursday.

The statement by Cathy Ritter in a Denver Business Journal interview came one day after the release of a study finding that the Colorado Tourism Office’s national “Come to Life” marketing campaign generated 2.1 million trips and $2.6 billion in traveler spending from April through August — both significant increases from the impact of the campaign in 2014.

Numbers in the survey indicated that Colorado is getting the most bang for its buck by reaching out to families and high-income individuals who are drawn here by the state’s outdoor activities.

That campaign, in fact, generated $490 in tourism revenue for every $1 the CTO spent on it — a sign that Colorado’s plan for selling the state continues to be effective, Ritter said.

“I believe one of the ways we’ve found success in this state is by not focusing just on places to go and things to do,” said Ritter, who started in her position on Dec. 1. “We’re explaining to people how their life will change by visiting Colorado … We will continue building on this campaign because it’s resounding with people.”

Strategic Marketing & Research Insights, the Indianapolis firm that conducted the study, also asked what effect Colorado’s two-year-old marijuana legalization law had on visitation.

And while some people who attended the CTO board meeting initially thought the effect was significant, a deeper dive into the numbers revealed that it is very minor in the big picture, Ritter said.

The survey asked participants to list all the activities they did while they were in Colorado and then to designate the top three activities that were motivators to their coming here.

About 8 percent of people said that they visited a marijuana dispensary while in the state, and 85 percent of those listed that as a top-three draw. That means 6.8 percent of people who came to Colorado saw legalized marijuana a major motivator, Ritter expounded.

Another question asked whether marijuana influenced their decision to visit, and 48 percent responded that it had some influence — 22 percent extremely influencing, 20 percent very much and 7 percent somewhat. But the question did not specify whether that influence was a positive or negative one, and Ritter said she suspected a good number of those people were influenced negatively, deciding not to visit.

To back that assertion, she pointed to another question asked by SMRI, which queried travelers whether legalized marijuana would affect their likelihood of returning to Colorado next year. Twenty percent said it would in a positive way, while 15 percent said it would influence them not to come back. A full 65 percent said they didn’t care.

Marijuana advocates have urged the state to play up marijuana tourism as a potential revenue generator — something that Ritter noted it can’t do because it is illegal to advertise marijuana, a federally banned drug, outside the state’s borders.

But even if that restriction weren’t in place, the results of the latest survey affirm to her that there are many, many other potential visitors who should receive the state’s attention above those who are looking to come here to get legal marijuana, she said.

“Right now I wouldn’t say there would be a compelling argument, even if it were legal, for the Colorado Tourism Office to target the traveler because it’s such a small segment,” Ritter added. “And it carries as many negatives as it does positives.”

Source: Denver Business Journal, Ed Sealover
Photo: Jackfoto

Ed Sealover covers government, health care, tourism, airlines, hospitality and restaurants for the Denver Business Journal and writes for the “Capitol Business” blog.