Denver sets tourism records in 2013

June 18, 2014

Denver set new tourism records in 2013 with visitor spending increasing 12 percent over 2012 to top $4 billion for the first time ever.  The numbers are according to the Longwoods International annual visitor profile study, a report commissioned by Visit Denver, The Convention & Visitors Bureau.

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.  These are defined as people who could travel to any destination, but specifically chose to visit Denver.  Marketable visitors increased 13 percent in 2013 to a record high of 5.5 million visitors.

Marketable visitors spend an average of $113 a day, versus vacationers visiting friends and relatives, who spend $68 a day.  Business travelers spend the most at $126 a day.

“It’s exciting to see that our marketing efforts are working and we are continuing to drive new lucrative ‘marketable’ visitors to Denver,” said Richard Scharf, president and CEO of Visit Denver. “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.”

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 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.

* 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 from 3.4 nights in 2012.  Business travelers stayed 3.8 nights, about the same as in recent years.

* Just under three 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 seven 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 theater, 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

* Lower Downtown Historic District

* Cherry Creek Shopping Center/Cherry Creek North

* Outlets at Castle Rock

* Denver Pavilions

* Park Meadows Retail Resort

* Larimer Square

* FlatIron 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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