Tourism picks up in mid-2010; businesses hope trend continues

It’s little surprise that many tourism-related businesses in the Grand Valley didn’t fare as well this year compared with years past.

While the recession has taken its toll, some indicators show tourism picked up in this year’s second and third quarters. That has business owners hoping the trend will continue into the new year.

About 50 tourist-based business owners and other business leaders weighed in Thursday during a roundtable discussion about recent market highs and lows. They hoped to gain some insight into consumer interest in various goods and services.

“All of us have had a tough year,” Barbara J. Bowman, division manager of Grand Junction’s Visitor and Convention Bureau, told the group at Whitman Educational Center. “Like AAA said, flat is the new good. We just need to stick together until we get to an uptick in this market.”

Local hotel owners generally reported a sluggish start to 2010. Hotel fall vacancy rates, however, aren’t as low, and managers are seeing more bookings into the winter. Some reported being cautiously optimistic for next year.

President Tom Kleinschnitz, of Adventure Bound River Expeditions, said the number of rafters was up 11 percent this year at his business. Those increases, however, only translated to a 3 percent increase in revenue. Kleinschnitz attributed that discrepancy to more rafters opting for less-expensive packages and shorter raft trips.

He said he planned to discontinue some of the shorter trips in an effort to stay profitable.

Tourism also was up this year at the Grand Valley’s opposite ends, with increased attendance at Palisade’s festivals and more people recreating in Fruita.

Chris Ham, outdoor recreation planner for the Bureau of Land Management, said public land use was up 10 percent in the Fruita area. Even more people are traveling from international destinations to mountain bike in the area. Increases in tourism also were reported for the year at McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area and Colorado National Monument.

“People are choosing Grand Junction and Fruita over Moab because of the trails,” Ham said. “I love my partners over there, but I’m glad to see the money stay local.”


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