Downtown Denver foot traffic is still way down

Some of it is the remote work locally, but we also don’t have as much business travel coming in.

An RTD train crosses 14th Street. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

An RTD train crosses 14th Street. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

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Business travelers might picture the mountains when planning a trip to Colorado, but they’re just as likely headed downtown.

Or at least, they were, when people still traveled for business.

While resort communities are reporting a boom in visitation, Denver doesn’t seem to be faring as well. On a weekday last month, there were about 150,000 people walking around downtown, compared to between 250,000 and 300,000 prior to the pandemic, according to data from the Downtown Denver Partnership. It’s hard to draw an apples-to-apples comparison because the data doesn’t go back to the summer of 2019, but it’s clear downtown foot traffic is still way down.

A big part of the issue is remote work. Many companies have instituted more flexible work-from-home policies, and others have delayed plans to return to the office because of the Delta variant. But pared down corporate travel is also a factor. Activity at the Denver Convention Center has picked up in recent months, but it’s still not back to where it was, according to Rich Carollo, the director of sales and marketing at the convention center. For example, the calendar of events for much of November is bare, he said.

“It’s not a normal November for us to have that span of time where we don’t have anything,” Carollo said.

There have been a small number of recent cancellations, including a conference for the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators and a credit union that had planned a one-day event. As of now, next year is shaping up to be better, Carollo said.

The next major event at the convention center is the Craft Brewers Conference & Brew Expo that starts September 9. The trade association is still planning an in-person gathering, but attendance is relatively low. In 2019, the event drew more than 14,000 attendees to Denver. The group expects to host about 7,000 this year.

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