Adventure Calls! How Colorado Companies are Fueling the Experience-Travel Trend
Colorado plays starring role in the new craze that makes tourism meaningful
A glance at the headlines will tell you the world is a tumultuous place. In the face of disasters and political woes, promoting travel can seem frivolous. But for Colorado, tourism is a major economic driver – one that adds $20 billion to our annual economy and makes people’s lives better.
For my family, travel is about connecting with each other, our friends and our pastimes. For my business and many others in Colorado, travel offers another reward. Working within the tourism industry allows me to share the opportunity to find the places and experiences that can enrich their lives. By partnering with brands to put their coordinates on the map, we ingrain memorable experiences in the hearts of travelers.
And we’re not alone.
Tourism generates more jobs within the state than any other industry, and what’s more, Colorado companies are leading one of the industry’s biggest trends: Experience-driven travel.
“Tourism is still, as it has always been, a passion-based industry,” says Mark Gasta, an associate professor in the Masters of Tourism Management program at Colorado State University (and former executive vice president at Vail Resorts). “People get into this field for the love of sports, adventure, etc. and their desire to share those experiences with others. What begins as creating unique experiences for guests evolves into leveraging tourism as a superior economic development tool and an avenue to protect and preserve the environment and communities in which they operate. The leaders of tomorrow embrace this.”
We talked to a few companies that have incredible vision and a shared passion for creating memorable experiences to learn what brings them to Colorado – and what’s next.
“EXPERIENCE COLLECTING” DRIVES ADVENTURE
“[Colorado’s] booming population is driven, in part, by an influx of people seeking accessible outdoor adventure,” says Wade Martin, POWDR co-president. “These outdoor enthusiasts desire vibrant, local experiences that are true and authentic.”
As a national adventure lifestyle company, POWDR’s tagline is “awesome experiences in amazing places.” The company sees significant opportunity in Colorado, including its operations at Copper Mountain, Eldora Mountain Resort and Woodward Copper, a year-round ski and snowboard training facility. In addition to snowsports, Woodward Copper offers training programs in skateboarding, scooter, tumbling, parkour and more – with an emphasis on creativity and adventure.
“The biggest trend in adventure travel this year is the continuation of experience collecting, particularly experiences that embody the unique local community vibe,” Martin adds. “Experiences are the social currency of today.”
FROM COLORADO, EXPERIENCING THE WORLD
When it comes to that social currency, Colorado-based Asia Transpacific Journeys (ATJ) has opted to reinvest dividends from the trips it leads to destinations throughout Asia. For its team, living in Colorado is a remarkable experience that fuels the company’s drive to share the value of experience with the world.
“It’s so important now, more than ever, for our travelers to not only connect with the cultures and experiences within the destinations on their journey, but also with each other. We are not just checking things off the list, we are writing and living real-life stories and creating and participating in the journey,” says Kirsten Louy Nasty, ATJ co-owner and CEO. That trend might be why, Nasty says, “We are seeing many multi-generational travelers traveling together on custom itineraries, desiring authentic experiences together.”
ATJ’s trips focus on the experience by providing unique custom tours, like home visits and locally immersions, Nasty explains. “We can chat with people, dance, eat and enjoy this very unique moment in time where we connect, globally and very personally.”
MUSIC AS A GATEWAY TO THE MOUNTAIN EXPERIENCE
Closer to home, country music fans from all over will converge in Buena Vista this fall for the inaugural Seven Peaks Festival.
Country star Dierks Bentley hand-selected the venue for the three-day festival he’s developed with Live Nation. Why this spot in the Rockies? Well, as Bentley said at the festival’s kickoff announcement, "When you're out here, I feel like you're really living."
“We really want Seven Peaks to embody the whole spectrum of what that area has to offer,” said Brian O’Connell, Live Nation’s president of country touring. “We want people to explore the area, from downtown businesses, to all of the outdoor activities that are world-class in [Buena Vista].”
Those elements are crucial to the festival’s personality and success, O’Connell says. In addition to music from artists like Miranda Lambert and Brothers Osborne, the festival will include camping under the stars and outdoor adventure excursions such as kayaking, ziplining, ATVing, stand-up paddleboard and rafting.
MAKING THE WORLD SMALLER, ONE JOURNEY AT A TIME
What do all of these companies have in common?
They’re bringing intimacy to world-class adventures by giving guests what they want, in an unforgettable environment.
As Gasta puts it, “Travel is becoming less and less about do-nothing time away, and more about guests exposing themselves to something bigger than oneself, often resulting in introspection, self-awareness and an expanded worldview. This personal clarity can serve as a calling for individuals to define and live a life in alignment with their personal values.”
And that makes the tourism business very meaningful indeed.
Ashley Lowe, founder and principal of Betty Ashley Public Relations, leads a team of experts with 50 years of travel, economic development and real estate experience, half of that on the client’s side of the desk. The agency’s strength is putting “destination underdogs” on the map. Betty Ashley PR received the 2017 Colorado Governor’s Award for Outstanding Marketing Program for its work with the Town of Silverthorne. For more information, visit www.bettyashley.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org