Denver Busts Tourism Records in 2013

June 18, 2014

Colorado tourismKeeping with the global trend o booming tourism, Denver announced this week that it set new visitation and spending records in 2013. A 12 percent increase in spending over 2012 drove the total over $4 billion or the first time, according the Longwoods International annual visitor profile study, a report commissioned by VISIT DENVER, The Convention & Visitors Bureau. 

That includes more than $1 billion spent on lodging and $796 million on food and beverages — and the survey suggests visitors to the Mile High City were happier than ever, with the majority saying they'd return for another visit.

 Denver also saw a record number of overnight visitors in 2013, with 14 million vacationers and business travelers coming to the city, up 3 percent over 2012.  The increase came mainly from “marketable” leisure travelers who chose Denver on a discretionary basis. The total number of those highly valued visitors increased 13 percent to 5.5 million in 2013.

“Marketable” visitors are more desirable because they spend an average of $113 a day, versus vacationers visiting friends and relatives, who spend just $68 a day. Business travelers spend the most at $126 a day. 

“Tourism and conventions don’t just happen. The Longwoods study allows us to see that since 2005 when voters approved more marketing dollars for Denver, we have seen a 48 percent increase in the number of leisure visitors coming to our city,” saidRichard Scharf, president & CEO of VISIT DENVER, the city’s official tourism marketing arm.

According to the report:

  • Denver welcomed a record 14 million overnight visitors in 2013, up 3 percent over 2012.
  • The number of people visiting friends and relatives in Denver in 2013 dropped 2 percent from 2012, mirroring a national trend that saw a 3 percent drop in people visiting friends and relatives throughout the U.S.  The number of people coming to Denver for conventions and business travel in 2013 was flat with 2012; nationally, business travel was down 11 percent in the U.S. in 2013 versus  2012.  “Marketable” visitors to Denver increased 13 percent in 2013 to a record high of 5.5 million visitors, versus  only a 9 percent increase nationally.
  • Overnight visitors spent a record $4 billion in 2013, 12 percent more than 2013, with $3.16 billion spent by leisure visitors (up 14 percent over 2012) and $845 million spent by business travelers (up 4 percent over 2012).
  • All five of the major business sectors connected to travel and tourism saw an increase in spending in 2013.  Denver visitors spent more than $1.1 billion in Denver hotels and other lodging establishments, and $796 million on food and beverages.
  • Expenditures by visitors on gas, car rentals and other local transportation purchases topped $1.1 billion.  Purchases at retail stores was $549 million, while  vacationers and business travelers spent $373 million on the city’s paid attractions and other recreational and sightseeing activities.
  • Another way of looking at expenditures is to factor in how long each type of visitor stays.  On average, the biggest spenders are business travelers, who spent $368 per trip; followed by marketable leisure visitors who spent $293 per trip, then followed by people visiting friends and relatives, who spent $249. 
  • Vacationers spent an average of 3.2 nights in the city, down slightly from 3.4 nights in 2012.  Business travelers stayed 3.8 nights, about the same as in recent years. 
  • Just under 3 in 10 leisure travelers were first-time visitors to Denver, about the same as last year.  Marketable visitors were more likely to be “first-timers.”
  • Colorado saw a 5 percent increase in visitors in 2013, attracting a record 27.1 million vacationers.
  • Denver’s image (what visitors thought of the city) improved greatly in 2013. Just over 7 in 10 visitors agreed strongly that Denver is a place they would “really enjoy visiting again.” 
  • Denver’s image in 2013 scored higher than in 2012 for:  ease of getting around; nightlife and entertainment scene; the sense of excitement; offering famous landmarks; the arts scene (including theatre, galleries and museums); and offering interesting festivals and events.

The top states sending vacationers to Denver in 2013, apart from Colorado itself, were:

  • California
  • Texas
  • Illinois
  • Nebraska
  • Florida
  • New Mexico
  • Kansas
  • Minnesota
  • Arizona
  • Wyoming
  • Maryland
  • New York

The top cities from outside of Colorado sending leisure visitors to Denver in 2013 were:

  • Los Angeles
  • Chicago
  • Albuquerque-Santa Fe
  • Houston
  • San Diego
  • Phoenix
  • Dallas-Ft. Worth
  • Minneapolis-St. Paul
  • New York

Shopping and entertainment were popular tourist activities in Denver in 2013. The top 10 shopping and entertainment centers were (in order):

  • 16th Street Mall
  • “LoDo” Lower Downtown Historic District
  • Cherry Creek Shopping Center/Cherry Creek North
  • Outlets at Castle Rock
  • Denver Pavilions
  • Park Meadows Retail Resort
  • Larimer Square
  • Flatirons Crossing Mall
  • Shops at Tabor Center
  • Belmar

The top 15 paid and free attractions in Denver were (in order)

  • Denver Zoo
  • Colorado State Capitol
  • Coors Brewery
  • Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre
  • Denver Botanic Gardens
  • Denver Art Museum
  • Denver Museum of Nature & Science
  • Colorado Rockies
  • Elitch Gardens Theme & Water Park
  • Downtown Aquarium
  • U.S. Mint
  • Buffalo Bill’s Museum & Grave
  • Colorado Railroad Museum
  • Butterfly Pavilion
  • Denver Broncos


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