DENVER – Weds., July 20, 2016 – The Colorado Tourism Office (CTO) today announced that Colorado once again set all-time records for total visitors, visitor spending and tax generation in 2015, welcoming 77.7 million visitors who spent $19.1 billion and generated $1.13 billion in state and local tax revenue.
This is the fifth consecutive year the CTO has seen record-setting growth. The state has posted a 31 percent increase in visitation, nearly double the 16 percent growth in travel nationally, since the depths of the recession in 2009.
The announcement includes findings from a collection of studies detailing the impact of Colorado’s tourism industry during 2015 along with the effectiveness of the state’s award-winning ‘Come To Life’ marketing campaign.
“The numbers speak for themselves, proving that our state is wise to invest in tourism promotion, and that our innovative marketing initiatives attract visitors who inject more than $1.1 billion into state and local tax coffers,” said Cathy Ritter, director of the Colorado Tourism Office. “It is clear that Colorado’s marketing campaign is not only inspiring travelers, but driving healthy gains in business earnings and job growth.”
Travel Expenditures Reach Record Levels in 2015

Highlights from Colorado Travel Impacts 2015, Dean Runyan Associates
Total direct travel spending in Colorado reached an all-time high of $19.1 billion in 2015, with two-thirds (66 percent) of that total spent by those who stayed overnight in paid accommodations (hotels, motels, rented condos, campgrounds, RV parks and bed & breakfasts). The state’s total travel expenditures increased by 3 percent from 2014, outpacing national spending growth, which remained flat year over year.
Underscoring the importance of tourism for Colorado residents, the state’s travel industry generated $1.13 billion in local and state tax revenues in 2015, an increase of 6.8 percent from 2014. To replace those visitor taxes would have required an additional $207 tax payment from each of Colorado’s 5.46 million residents.
Visitor spending also spurred job creation. In 2015, the travel industry directly supported 160,000 jobs, a 3 percent increase over 2014, creating earnings of more than $5.5 billion in 2015, a 7.8 percent increase over 2014.
Record Visitation; Marketable Trips Reach All-Time High
Highlights from Colorado Travel Year Report 2015, Longwoods International
Colorado welcomed a record 77.7 million domestic visitors in 2015, up 8.6 percent from 2014, including 36 million overnight visitors and 41.7 million day travelers. The state’s most valuable travel segment — marketable leisure trips – reached an all-time high of 17.1 million, a 6 percent increase over 2014. Marketable leisure trips, unlike business travel or visits to friends and family, represent travelers who have a choice of destinations and thus can be influenced by marketing.
“Colorado once again significantly outpaced the nation in travel and tourism growth in 2015,” said Michael Erdman, senior vice president of Longwoods International, “Marketable leisure travel to Colorado also rose at a much greater rate than this type of travel nationwide, which can be directly attributed to the Colorado Tourism Office’s marketing efforts to lure visitors to stay longer and spend more.”
Colorado’s Ad Campaign Spurs Incremental Travel, $2.6 Billion in Economic Impact
Highlights from April 2015 through March 2016 Marketing Effectiveness Research, Strategic Marketing & Research Insights (SMARI)
Colorado’s award-winning ‘Come To Life’ marketing campaign continued to show a high return on investment from April 2015 through March 2016. In studies by Strategic Marketing & Research Insights (SMARI), the campaign demonstrated strong recall and approval and more importantly, generated significant incremental travel, driving more than 2.6 million additional trips to Colorado with a total impact of $3.5 billion.
Based on a media spend of $7.4 million, Colorado’s marketing campaign also created an outstanding return on investment (ROI) for the state’s investment in tourism promotion. SMARI found the campaign generated $478 in travel spending for every $1 of paid media, up from $361 in the prior marketing year. Colorado’s ‘Come To Life’ campaign was enhanced by nationally focused public relations and social media programs.
“The continued success of the Colorado Tourism Office’s Come to Life campaign results from the combination of connecting with and inspiring consumers at a personal level and having a media plan that effectively gets the message to a national audience,” said Denise Miller, executive vice president of Strategic Marketing & Research Insights. “As a result, the CTO has achieved one of the highest ROIs of any destination nationally.”
SMARI’s final research wave in April revisited the question of how legal marijuana influenced Colorado travelers, in part to clarify widely reported, but misleading findings from a vaguely worded question in the fall research. In keeping with other studies over the past three years, the majority of Colorado’s targeted age 25+ travelers, a total of 64 percent, said legal marijuana had no influence on their decision to visit.
Another 14 percent of travelers said the availability of marijuana negatively influenced their interest in visiting Colorado, although they visited anyway. The remaining 23 percent said the availability of marijuana positively influenced their decision to visit. Overall, only 11 percent visited a dispensary and just 4 percent said the ability to visit a dispensary motivated their trip.

Travelers ages 25-34 were the most likely age group (33 percent) to report marijuana positively influenced their decision to visit, while those 55 and older (22 percent) were most likely to say they were negatively influenced.
To view the full reports for Colorado Travel Impacts 2015 (Dean Runyan Associates) and Colorado Travel Year Report 2015 (Longwoods International), visit
Colorado is a four-season destination offering unparalleled adventure and recreational pursuits, a thriving arts scene, a rich cultural heritage, flavorful cuisine, and 25 renowned ski areas and resorts. The state’s breathtaking scenic landscape boasts natural hot springs, the headwaters of seven major rivers, many peaceful lakes and reservoirs, 12 national parks and monuments, over 850 farm and ranches that are open to visitors, and 58 mountain peaks that top 14,000 feet.
For more information or a copy of the 2016 Colorado Official State Vacation Guide, visit or call 1-800 COLORADO.