COLORADO SPRINGS — Though the early signs were dire for the city’s tourism prospects, a study by data firm STR found 81.7 percent of Colorado Springs’ hotel rooms are full on the weekends.
Slow weekday traffic is dragging down overall hotel occupancy by 46 percent compared to last year, according to Visit Colorado Springs President and CEO Doug Price. Typically, occupancy in the summer hovers around 90 percent but Price says, this year is going better than expected.
“Because of our wide-open spaces, people feel so much more comfortable being in their own car and being outdoors,” Price said.
During a press conference Wednesday, Governor Jared Polis seemed to welcome visitors from states like New York with a relatively low incidence of the virus. New York has implemented quarantines for people who come from several states where COVID-19 cases are surging.
“We’re excited to be on the good list. It’s good for our economy, good for our health,” Gov. Polis said.
Gov. Polis also acknowledges that plenty of people are coming from states that are hot spots for COVID-19.
“On a little road trip with my family last weekend I swear every license plate was from Texas or Arizona,” Dr. Leon Kelly told Colorado Springs City Council on Monday.
Dr. Kelly, the deputy medical director for El Paso County Public Health, says it’s important for local governments to send a clear message of expectations for visitors during the pandemic. Gov. Polis said visitors from hot spots are one of the reasons why his statewide mask mandate is important.
“That’s what keeps me up at night is folks from out of town,” Dr. Kelly said. “We have a very specific culture here and we have done a good job over the course of the summer in dealing with this and other states haven’t.”
For his part, Price said his focus has been on marketing to fellow Coloradans, who he believes have a better understanding of mandates and share in a statewide desire to curb the spread. This while he knows Texas is traditionally one of ‘Visit Colorado Springs’ largest markets.
“People from Texas and Arizona, they do come here but we have not been ‘inviting’ them this summer,” he said.
Manitou Springs implemented a stronger mask mandate than the state order last week that also comes with a $25-$30 fine. El Paso County Commissioners as well as Colorado Springs City Council have refused to take further measures, instead relying on the “#MaskUpCOS” campaign. Price calls that campaign ‘brilliant” but thinks he has a plan to inspire visitors to step up their mask game.
It hasn’t been implemented yet, but he hopes to roll out a “Peak of Safety” pledge. It would give coupons for visitors who promise to wear a mask, keep physical distance from others, and stick to other good public health practices.
“Take a pledge that, while our businesses are doing their best, we would ask you to do the same,” Price said.