Spotlight: Colorado Tourism Office

Destinations facing challenge with resilience and creativity

Colorado Tourism Office’s Care for Coloradans Initiative

Resilience and creativity have always been hallmarks of the travel industry. At Miles, we’ve been inspired by the innovative ways that destinations and organizations are exemplifying those qualities, adapting to meet the extraordinary challenges presented by COVID-19. We will be spotlighting those efforts here each week to help share that inspiration throughout the industry.

Read on to find out how the Colorado Tourism Office leveraged an existing initiative around protecting the state’s natural resources to protecting its residents during the pandemic.

Challenge: New Territory

After conducting statewide listening sessions and learning Colorado residents had a growing concern about the impacts of tourism, the Colorado Tourism Office (CTO) incorporated a destination stewardship plan into its new statewide strategic plan. As part of that work, CTO partnered with nonprofit Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics to develop the Care for Colorado Principles. Building on that message, the CTO developed a campaign aimed at educating visitors about the important things to keep in mind while exploring Colorado’s beautiful landscape. Care for Colorado had been running successfully since its launch in 2017 (and even earned national recognition), but when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, residents had new worries about travelers visiting Colorado. CTO was in new territory, faced with addressing these latest concerns while continuing to make tourism more digestible to residents. They needed to continue educating potential visitors on how to honor the state’s natural resources, while also conveying the importance of protecting the people of Colorado during the health crisis.

Strategy: Inclusion of Residents

Like many destinations across the U.S., CTO looked for efficiencies by evaluating current initiatives and content for opportunities to inform before diving into creating brand new content. With its success and informative nature, the CTO determined that the existing Care for Colorado initiative could easily incorporate the new messaging related to health and safety protocols across the state.

CTO developed a new definition of responsible tourism that promoted care for the state’s natural resources and for the people who call Colorado home. They shared this message with consumers and created a sense of urgency for adopting new health and safety practices via a fresh video entitled “Care for Coloradans,” which was distributed across social media and through paid media. They also developed an updated edition of their “Are You Colo-Ready?” brochure and decals promoting mask-wearing and social distancing for their Welcome Centers across the state.

To support the local tourism industry in spreading the word, CTO created an online Care for Coloradans Responsible Tourism Toolkit for industry partners, including downloadable social graphics, poster templates that promote the requirement of masks and a PSA poster listing the 5 Steps for Responsible Travel. The toolkit was promoted to industry partners via newsletter.

Results: Industry Recognition

Care for Colorado videos have been viewed more than 200,000 times across CTO’s website and Facebook and even more on partners’ channels. In addition to engagement from potential travelers and residents on social media, the Care for Coloradans initiative has earned industry recognition and even support from the state’s governor. Regarded as an industry leader for their proactive approach and for balancing their marketing to leisure travelers with protecting Colorado from overtourism, CTO Director Cathy Ritter recently spoke about their efforts at City Nation Place and Alaska Tourism Conference.

Jared Polis shared the Care for Coloradans video

To learn more, we emailed the Director for the Colorado Tourism Office, Cathy Ritter, to ask about the strategy behind adapting the Care for Colorado initiative to new needs related to the pandemic.

What was the impetus for the original Care for Colorado initiative?

In 2017, CTO adopted stewardship as one of the four main pillars of our new Colorado Tourism Roadmap. Through a strategic partnership with Boulder-based nonprofit Leave No Trace, we developed messaging for the Care for Colorado initiative based on the Leave No Trace Seven Principles. A brochure that promoted the messaging “Are You Colo-Ready?” and animated videos with catchy jingles were just the beginning of our ongoing initiative.

How did you go about adapting the existing Care for Colorado initiative to focus on health and safety as it relates to the COVID-19 pandemic?

Back in April, we already were hearing that many communities, in the midst of making so many sacrifices to prevent the spread of coronavirus, were concerned about allowing outsiders into their midst. It was clear even then that these communities would need assurance that we were educating visitors to use good health practices and show care for others as they traveled in our state. This evolved into our new definition of responsible tourism — showing care not just for Colorado’s natural resources and destinations, but for other people, including those who call our destinations home. To share this message, we created a new :45 animated video dubbed Care for Coloradans. We also developed the new Responsible Travel Edition of our “Are You Colo-Ready?” brochure, distributing 100,000 copies at our Colorado Welcome Centers as well as through visitor centers across the state.

What are some of the overall goals of the Care for Colorado initiative and have those changed at all with this new evolution of the content?

It’s remarkable how the three objectives spelled out in our STEWARD Pillar have continued to support our stewardship work. We’ve stayed true to all three of those goals — inviting travelers to embrace our sustainability ethics while here, dispersing travelers in productive ways and banding with other stakeholders to magnify the impact of our messaging. COVID containment has brought us many new and unexpected partners and engendered a new definition of dispersion. With so many travelers flocking to our open spaces over the summer, we are now focusing on dispersing travelers to more distressed parts of our state, including Front Range cities that needed less support from us in the past.

How have you approached sharing the Care for Coloradans content with industry partners vs. consumers?

Our office has taken every opportunity to share our Care for Colorado messaging on our own channels directly with Colorado travelers. But by continuing to build the Care for Colorado Coalition, we now have 15 major partners joining us in sharing this messaging with their own audiences. These range from statewide tourism organizations, like the Colorado Association of Destination Marketing Organizations, to outdoor recreation groups like the Colorado Mountain Club to federal land managers like the Colorado BLM Office to government groups, like the Colorado Association of Ski Towns.

What kind of response has the new content garnered so far?

Our :45 Care for Coloradans video has been a big hit, with a stunning 98 percent video completion rate for paid placements. In our fall campaign, we’re sharing a slightly shorter version on screens at gas station pumps across the state. But apart from educating consumers about new health and safety

Get Colo-Ready!

Check out the campaign and learn all about how to responsibly visit Colorado on CTO’s Care for Colorado page.