New flights into Denver may attract Swedish, Japanese tourists to valley

Nationally recognized Redlands Mesa Golf Course is tucked in the foothills between Grand Junction and Colorado National Monument.

Golf-mad Swedes and Japanese tourists transfixed by national parks are among the prospects for Grand Valley tourism supporters looking to take advantage of the new direct connections from Iceland and Japan to Denver.

The Grand Junction Visitor and Convention Bureau has long wanted to cultivate both groups, but only now is the opportunity taking shape, said Barbara Bowman, division director of the bureau.

“We’ve had people come here from Sweden,” Bowman said, “but it hasn’t been easy for them to get here.”

Japanese tourists can be found frequently at Denver International Airport, but they’re a more difficult catch because they tend to be bound for Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, then Arches and Canyonlands national parks in Moab, Utah, “and that’s as far east as they get,” Bowman said.

United Airlines is planning to begin daily scheduled nonstop service between Denver International Airport and Narita International Airport in Tokyo early in 2013. IcelandAir already is flying four flights a week between Reykjavik and Denver.

Scandinavians and the Japanese share interest in the United States, but each group is a different market, Bowman said.

Scandinavia offers a wealthy market and tourists from there have a lot of time at their disposal, Bowman said. Vacationers tend to have 14 to 21 days to spend on the road, making them more likely to be tempted by the Grand Valley’s offerings of wine, hiking and biking.

“I think we’re targeting first of all for the summer with them,” Bowman said, “but there is also a great potential for the skiing market.”

One European group already has taken advantage of the proximity by air of Grand Junction to Denver, said Tad Holloway, general manager at Redlands Mesa Golf Club.

The group played golf in the morning, then sampled the Grand Valley wineries in the evening, Holloway said.

It doesn’t hurt from a travel-promotion perspective that 90 percent of Swedes, for instance, own golf clubs and that Scandinavians are adventurous, Bowman said.

“They’ll go to a small destination,” she said.

The IcelandAir connection also potentially opens the whole of northern Europe to the Grand Valley, Bowman said.

“They have a wide, wide reach,” she said.

Japanese tourists present a different tourism opportunity, Bowman said.

They typically have far shorter periods in which to travel, about seven days on average, but the direct flight into Denver widens the potential reach of their travel schedules.

“Now we see an opportunity that we might be put in the itinerary” for Japanese tourists, Bowman said.


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