Denver set a record for tourist visits last year. Again.
Each year for the last 10 years, Denver has outdone itself by drawing more visitors, including visitors who could have traveled anywhere but chose to come here. According to information released this week by Visit Denver, the city drew 1 million more visitors in 2015 than the year before, 16.4 million in total, and those visitors put an estimated $5 billion into the local economy.
Richard Scharf, president and CEO of Visit Denver, the city’s Convention & Visitors Bureau, credited the ongoing increase to voter approval in 2005 of more money to market Denver in cities like Albuquerque, Chicago, Houston and Phoenix. Since 2005, Denver has seen a 52 percent increase in tourism, compared to a 20 percent national average.
Visitors in 2015 traveled farther and stayed longer, on average 3 nights, the study says. Some 6.1 million of them could have traveled anywhere, but picked Denver instead.
Denver is also seeing increases in visitors above and beyond the national average. Denver’s overnight leisure visitors increased 6 percent to 13.8 million, compared to 2 percent nationally, and business travel to Denver rose 9 percent last year during a time when traveling for work is stagnant nationwide.
I know what you’re thinking: Marijuana.
Scharf, who initially opposed recreational legalization, told the Denver Post there is no data on whether marijuana has influenced the number of visitors to Denver. Federal laws prohibit advertising for it across state lines, though people might have heard that it’s legal here. Scharf said Visit Denver may begin to count marijuana tourists as more states legalize.
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