Colorado calls on the Canadian market

A delegation from Colorado is making stops in Toronto and Montreal this week to inspire travellers and keep the destination top of mind for Canadians.

“We haven’t been here for four years unfortunately because of the pandemic so we’re incredibly excited to be back and a lot has changed in four years so we wanted to let you know about all the new things happening in Colorado,” Andrea Blankenship, Deputy Director International Tourism, Colorado Tourism Office, told PressToday. “Canada is our number two international market, after Mexico, so it’s long been an incredibly important market for us.”

Although the Canadian market isn’t yet back to 2019 levels, she’s optimistic about what the future holds.

“We’re going to call 2024 the year of Canada,” she noted. “Our forecast shows that this year we should have our full return of Canadian travellers, which is incredibly important to all of our destinations.

A taste of Colorado

Fresh off of launching its first MICHELIN Guide in the state, the Colorado partners are travelling with Chef Cody Cheetham of Tavernetta restaurant, who is giving prospective visitors a taste of Denver’s food scene at the events this week.

“We launched the MICHELIN Guide in Colorado in September of 2023 in six cities — Denver, Boulder, Aspen, Snowmass, Vail, Beaver Creek. We’ve known for years we’ve got a great food scene so we’re really excited to launch this,” Blankenship shared. “There’s a great farm-to-fork scene and one of our partners even has a farm-to-tap brewery.”

Cheetham said working on the MICHELIN Guide has helped Colorado’s food scene gain international recognition.

“The scene has grown immensely, especially in the Denver area where we’re based out of, that culinary scene is blooming, there’s tonnes of new restaurants, cocktail bars, wine bars, lots of fun stuff going on,” he said.

Notably, Blankenship said that many local businesses used the downtime during the pandemic to expand, develop and improve their offerings.

“They really took the opportunity to make things better than ever,” she said. “We’ve got a bunch of new hotel openings, a lot of our of our ski resorts did complete renovations to the tune of US$800 million and added cool new products we didn’t expect. I know Canadians are very familiar with Rocky Mountaineer and in 2021 the Rockies to Red Rocks route launched.”

Along with skiing, she said that 30 hot springs, craft breweries, hiking trails, dark skies, and national parks are just a few of the things that await visitors. 

Into the great wide open

“The four national parks make for a really great seven-day itinerary through Colorado,” Blankenship said. “Rocky Mountain National Park is our largest one, it’s the second most visited national park, it’s kind of the big animals, the quintessential Colorado park. Great Sand Dunes is another one, really unique, in the southwest corner is Mesa Verde, which is our one UNESCO World Heritage site and then Black Canyon of the Gunnison, which we think is really amazing but it gets the least amount of visitors, which can be really cool because you can be there and have a national park to yourself.”

To help inspire the travel trade with possibilities, Julie DuFault, International Promotions Manager, Colorado Tourism Office, said they’ve created some 45 different inspirational itineraries that cater to a variety of different interests.

Also present in Canada were Caroline Campbell, PR & Communications Manager, Visit Denver; Katy Schneider, VP Marketing, Visit Fort Collins; Kale Mortensen, Executive Director, Visit Alamosa and Sara Stookey Sanchez, PR Manager, Snowmass Tourism. Stay tuned for more on what’s new in these destinations in upcoming editions of Travel Courier.