GJ tourism officials put award-winning website to work

Local tourism officials want to attract visitors of all kinds from near and far, so the Grand Junction Visitor and Convention Bureau is launching some new online tools.

Plans for visitors to book hotel rooms directly from the VCB’s VisitGrandJunction.com website were announced Tuesday during a meeting to release its annual report and update the community about developments.

“We want to better track ad campaigns,” said Mistalynn Meyeraan, marketing and public relations coordinator for the VCB. “We can follow the actual money that goes into the economy.”

The ability to book rooms directly from the VCB site will be available in a few months.

Additionally, the VisitGrandJunction.com site was the 2013 winner of a Silver Magellan Award for an Outstanding Destination Website, winning out over websites created by 1,500 other cities in locales such as Hong Kong, Florida and Las Vegas.

“From an industry standpoint, it’s an incredible honor,” said Debbie Kovalik, executive director of the VCB. “We work really hard to stand out, not just regionally and nationally, but globally.”

Along with the recession, tourism declined in Grand Junction. While tourism is rebounding statewide, it is coming back at a slower pace to the Grand Junction area, officials said.

One indicator of tourism numbers and the dollars they bring can be traced to lodging taxes, a 3 percent tax imposed on every room and lodging facility sold in and around Grand Junction. Numbers were down for the first six months of 2013 compared with 2012, but increased slightly year over year by the end of 2013.

The Grand Valley has much more to offer visitors than it did 25 years ago, in 1989, when the lodging tax was first implemented.

For example, Kovalik said, there were four wineries in the area at that time, and now there are 21. In 1989, there were 1,800 hotel rooms, but there are 3,000 hotel rooms today. There are now so many that the VCB encourages organizers to choose alternate dates to avoid overlap.

“This community had a vision that the travel industry was important,” Kovalik said.

The area’s biggest direct tourism drivers are the Junior College World Series, or JUCO, which diverts $950,000 a year into the local economy. The second biggest money-making event from tourism is the Tour of the Moon bicycle ride, which attracted 2,300 tourists over one weekend last year, infusing $500,000 into local coffers.

Tuesday’s event featured guest speaker David Huether, senior vice president of research for the U.S. Travel Association.

Huether said local leaders should not overlook the impact of tourism on economies, considering that travel is ranked the No. 1 export of all U.S. exports. One in eight jobs is supported by the travel industry, a ranking that has peaked in the past decade, he said.

Tourism has increased by 12 percent in recent years across Colorado. But tourism has yet to make a comeback to Grand Junction, Huether said. However if it increases by 10 percent locally, the boost could support more than 700 jobs, about the same number of employees with the city of Grand Junction.

Huether said investment in tourism advertising has been shown to produce benefits by keeping those destinations in consumers’ minds when they decide to get out of town. The benefits of welcoming international visitors shouldn’t be overlooked, Huether said, explaining that more Americans travel to China than Chinese travel here. However, American visitors to China spend an average of $1,000, while Chinese tourists visiting America spend an average of $6,000. International travelers on average spend $4,000 per trip, he said. Some reasons for the increase in spending is the relatively low prices of consumer goods stateside, Huether said.

The VCB is working with more than 126 international tour companies. It has home pages in French, Spanish and German and translates messages from those three languages as well as Japanese and Chinese.


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