What Happens When You Stop Marketing? The Rise and Fall of Colorado Tourism

This paper provides through over 20 years of research a quintessential demonstration of the necessity and financial value of marketing. It details the state of Colorado’s roller-coaster funding ride, including the complete loss of its tourism marketing budget, and the subsequent successful fight for renewed financial support.

In 1993, Colorado became the only state to eliminate its tourism marketing function, when it cut its $12 million promotion budget to zero. As a result, Colorado’s domestic market share plunged 30% within two years, representing a loss of over $1.4 billion in tourism revenue annually. Over time, the revenue loss increased to well over $2 billion yearly. In the important summer resort segment, Colorado dropped from first place among states to 17th.

It took until 2000 for the industry to convince the legislature to reinstate funding with a modest $5 million budget. Research tracked the effectiveness of the state’s tourism campaigns over the next few years, and demonstrated an ROI of over 12:1. In 2006, Governor Bill Owens signed a bill upping the tourism promotion budget to $19 million. By 2007, travel to Colorado rebounded to an all-time high, with 28 million visitors spending $9.8 billion enjoying their trips to the state.

This case study published by Dr. Bill Siegel of Longwoods International, documents the consequences of short-term budget savings have on long term economic prosperity in Colorado.

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