Experience Colorado

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When was the last time you really looked closely at your home state and all of the gems that call it home? Can you remember the last time you played a visitor in your own city, perusing your local museum or making a day of it at some area tourist attractions?
A lot can be learned when you stop and look around. The Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation has made doing so an expertise over the past 22 years of Leadership Exchange (LEX) trips. The organization has traveled annually with 150 of Denver’s top leaders to cities across the country – and even to cities in other nations – to pause and discuss the innovations and best practices of a city facing relevant business and policy issues while strengthening the collective vision and collaboration in our own community.
We have gleaned much from those visits, but we realized something was missing – and it wasn’t just the dozens of people left behind; their names on the waiting list for the next year’s LEX trip. Colorado’s own cities and towns have so many lessons to teach us. Colorado Experience was developed as a pilot program this year to provide an opportunity for emerging and executive leaders to explore our state’s regional issues in much the same way as the LEX trips.
On April 29 and 30, more than 150 delegates will travel to one of Colorado’s southern crown jewels, Colorado Springs, for a host of rich experiences and compelling dialogues in the home of the United States Air Force Academy, Garden of the Gods Park and the United States Olympic Training Center. Colorado Springs is the state’s second-largest city, is home to more than 399,000 people and has been named on dozens of “best” lists for places to live, work and recreate.
During the two-day event, attendees will enjoy visits to military installations and the United States Olympic Training Center, dinner hosted by the El Pomar Foundation, an interactive session on the Colorado state budget and discussions on space, water, tourism, and key industries and infrastructure in the Pikes Peak region and our state.
Involving more leaders, emerging and seasoned, in the Leadership Foundation’s selection of programs can only help us find solutions to the issues that plague any growing community: economic challenges, health care costs, education and transportation. This trip will prove a wonderful opportunity for these leaders to forge stronger relationships and build a strong future for our state.
The final deadline to apply for this new program is on Monday, April 4. I urge you and others in your companies to apply to participate in what will be a memorable and rewarding lesson in what makes Colorado so very special.


A credit to tourism

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Every day, thousands of visitors heed the call of Colorado’s crisp air, breathtaking mountains, roaring rivers and hundreds of miles of challenging trails.
Like magnets, travelers are drawn to our state, home to a myriad of activities ranging from world-class theater productions to rock climbing and winter-related vacations just up I-70 West.
Really, can you blame them?
I certainly cannot. In my opinion, there is no better place than Colorado. We enjoy more than 300 days of sunshine every year. We are just a short trip away from a perfect powder day. We can ride our bikes to work almost anytime (and everyday if you are really hardy) and, here, the North Face or Ouray jacket you wear on the weekend is perfectly acceptable to wear with your business suit during the week.
Despite the downturn in the economy, tourism remains the second-largest industry in the City and County of Denver and in the state as a whole. In 2009, 12.1 million visitors – nearly half of all visitors to Colorado – spent $2.8 billion in the metro area alone, supporting about 50,000 tourism-related jobs.
Judging by the piles of snow our ski resorts are collecting, this year is stacking up to be just as good.
Last month, when the SnowSports Industries America 39th annual Snow Show was held in Denver, industry insiders said if the snow keeps falling like it has so far this season, snow-sports spending for the 2010-11 season will be the new benchmark. So, we say “let it snow.” Get out there and enjoy it while you can.
In addition to those many natural wonders, Colorado is lucky to have such great advocates for all these amenities at VISIT DENVER. Richard Scharf and his team work tirelessly to elevate Denver and Colorado as a destination for tourists and conventioneers. (Did I mention that because of VISIT DENVER’s efforts in 2010, Denver recorded its second-best year ever for conventions? While the rest of the country was seeing a dip, this team delivered more.)
Tonight, VISIT DENVER will induct three pillars of Colorado’s community into the Denver & Colorado Tourism Hall of Fame: Former Governor Bill Ritter, dance figure Cleo Parker Robinson and former Colorado Springs convention bureau chief Terry Sullivan will be feted for having been unwavering in their support of Denver and Colorado as destinations.
The event serves as a fundraiser for the VISIT DENVER Foundation, which provides scholarships to college students studying tourism and hospitality.
Congratulations to each of the inductees. Also, a huge thank you from the business community to our friends at VISIT DENVER for doing so much to make our region stronger economically.