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Posted: May 29, 2012

Denver: Capitol of the wild, wild West

Gotta tout what we've got to draw tourists, business

David Sneed

Congratulations Denver, you have a daily flight to Japan. Now what are you going to do with it?

Hopefully you’ll lure tourists and their shiny, shiny coins. But why would they come? East Asia has most everything the U.S. has:

  • Macau is not only like Las Vegas, it’s bigger and rip-off-ier.
  • You want a big city? Shanghai, Tokyo and Singapore are better bets.
  • Shopping? Try Hong Kong or Kyoto.
  • Beautiful beaches?  Vietnam and Malaysia have them by the bucketful.
  • Mountains? Have you heard of Fuji, or seen a topographical map of Asia?

America’s left coast has everything else: Hollywood, Seattle and the Grand Canyon. Everything but one: The myth of Cowboys and roundups, gold booms outlaws and Prairie Schooners.  That’s where Denver comes in: we have the one thing you can’t get anywhere else in the world – the American West.

You and I know that little of the Wild West myth is true and almost none of it happened in Denver, but does it matter?  You can get there from here, and that’s the important part.

Denver has spent hundreds of dollars convincing New Yorkers we aren’t a cow town, but our Asian strategy has to do the opposite.  Trying to lure Japanese visitors here for our big city is ridiculous to a people so packed together that Denver would be just a side street neighborhood in their own hometown.

Asian dollars are contested worldwide, but the competition doesn’t have what Denver has. We’re near everything that 1950’s westerns showed the world America is made of; and we need to position ourselves as The Capital of the American West.

Come to Denver, we have Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone, sod houses, gold mines, Cowboys, bull riding, the Grand Canyon, Route 66, and oh, yes, the Molly Brown House. We have train rides through the mountains and Pikes Peak, we have Coors Brewery and the Stock Show.

We don’t have them exactly, but again, you can get there from here. Tour operators will line up to offer flights and bus tours of everything within 800 miles if we can just get the people here.  And every one of the tours will start and stop in Denver – with all that that implies. (I have a tour operation business plan if anyone wants to go halfs-ies.)

Don’t discount dreams and myths. We go to Paris because we think it’s different, but it’s like any other city if you take away that gangly metal tower. Niagara Falls has been disappointing brides for 200 years, but we still go because we’ve always heard about it. Likewise, there are millions of Asians who have ten gallon dreams of cowboys shooting it out with the Indians, and herds of Bison roaming the prairie behind them. Why discourage a myth?  The Niagara Falls-ians haven’t sent out a press release: “It’s just water going over some rocks and that’s why we had to build an amusement park” yet, so we don’t need to burst any bubbles either.

Our region should work together to create a vision of how we want to brand us overseas. I think it’s a mistake to compete in the “We have a modern City” category since there are roughly 1,800 cities more modern than we are. We do have one thing no other place in the world does though, and we need to shout that from the mountaintops: Denver is the Capitol of the (Wild) American West.

Tourists will go back and say the rest: “Wow, Denver is more modern than I thought. They have art, and science, and industry.” It will be pleasure visitors to Colorado that encourage business ventures and new branches of Asian business – the way you want to move your company to Paris just to get some decent doughnuts like they serve at the restaurant Quick. Our new Eastern pals will buy houses and office space here – bringing their money and fake obliviousness. We just have to get them to visit Denver – Capitol of the American West - before Phoenix gets the same idea.

David Sneed is the owner of Alpine Fence Company,and the author of" Everyone Has A Boss– The Two Hour Guide to Being the Most Valuable Employee at Any Company." As a Marine, father, employee and boss, David has learned how to help others succeed. He teaches the benefits of a strong work ethic to entry and mid-level employees. Contact him at

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Readers Respond

This was a great article! My dad, who grew up in a communist-occupied country in central Europe, used to sing campfire songs about cowboys and the Wild West as a kid. It was always a box on his bucket list to see the real thing. We finally took our time once while driving across the country and hit some of the dinosaur museums and old relics. Super cool. CO definitely has this card to play. By Nik on 2012 05 30
You've excellently capitalized on the heart of the matter---there is reality, and there is the perception of reality. Guess which one wins? To be attractive to international tourists, Denver must exploit the one unique hook it's got---no not the Broncos, not even Peyton Manning. It is the perception that this is the Wild West, only slightly tamed down--just enough to be safe and civil, but bordering on the edge of the stories Asians have heard about and seen in the movies. Right now, in PR terms, it's about the only element that, to them, is our unique selling proposition, to overuse a term. It's territory that nobody (yet) has truly claimed in a big way. Denver will do best not to leave it vacant. By Neal Browne on 2012 05 29
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