Foreign tour operators may be shut out of Colorado National Monument

Ten influential foreign tour operators are scheduled to fly into Grand Junction later this month to see the national parks of the American West.

They’ll get to tour parks in Utah and Arizona, but the one place western Colorado tourism officials fear might be locked down by the federal shutdown is the venue nearest to the place where they will begin and end their tour: Colorado National Monument.

“We still have time for this to correct itself,” Debbie Kovalik, director of economic development and visitor and convention services for Grand Junction.

If the federal shutdown continues, though, the tour operators, who will depart from Frankfurt, Germany, and arrive at Grand Junction Regional Airport on Oct. 21, will visit national parks and other attractions, and just a sliver of Colorado National Monument.

“We have the bases covered on everything, except for Colorado National Monument,” Kovalk said, with a rueful laugh.

The “familiarization tour,” as such visits are called, is aimed at getting the Grand Valley recognized as a central location for tours of the West and its parks, called the “Grand Circle.”

“They’ll send tens of thousands of people on foreign independent travel — you fly in and you drive” to the various locations, preferably starting and ending at Grand Junction Regional Airport and taking in the sights of the Grand Valley.

“That’s the whole point,” Kovalik said.

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