Steamboat on right track

Cultural and heritage tourism fundamental in community

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Heritage tourism makes up 81 percent of the national tourism market, said Anne Pritzlaff, executive director of Colorado Preservation Inc., during her presentation about developing art and cultural tourism during Economic Summit 2004 on Thursday.

Heritage tourism makes up 81 percent of the national tourism market, said Anne Pritzlaff, executive director of Colorado Preservation Inc., during her presentation about developing art and cultural tourism during Economic Summit 2004 on Thursday.

That's potentially big business, especially for the room full of Routt County business, government and cultural leaders who gathered at the Steamboat Grand Resort Hotel Ballroom to glean advice from Pritzlaff and other cultural and heritage tourism experts.

"I think we're absolutely on track," said Steamboat Springs Arts Council executive director and city council member Nancy Kramer after listening to Pritzlaff and Catherine Zacher, president of Santa Fe Economic Development Inc.

"Cultural and heritage tourism has got to be such a fundamental part of the community -- and be embraced by the community," Kramer said. "Over the past 10 years, it has become that way. Now we need to build on it. We have the foundation."

Zacher and Pritzlaff had several suggestions for what might attract cultural and heritage tourists -- and how to spot them.

"Travelers are smarter. They're getting leaner, and they're getting meaner," Zacher said. "They seek a sense of people and of place."

She added that cultural tourists are "more into life-seeing than sight-seeing."

Zacher said the average cultural traveler is a 45- to 64-year-old woman with a high level of education and high income who spends 8 percent to 10 percent more on vacation than the average traveler. Such visitors stay longer and use local lodging.

"Mass marketing is no longer the realm of tourism," Zacher said.

She said the Internet has changed tourism because potential tourists go online and research what they want to see. It's not about who has the glossiest brochure any more, Zacher said.

Pritzlaff said people are looking for an "authentic experience."

"Give them the real deal, and they'll stay here," Pritzlaff said.

Zacher and Pritzlaff emphasized creating partnerships between the cultural, commercial and public sectors -- including making cultural events and activities a way of life for residents as well as visitors. Zacher shared an example of the Santa Fe Opera opening its doors for a benefit concert after the Los Alamos, N.M., fire.

"All of a sudden it was Randy Travis talking to them in English and not someone yelling at them in Italian," Zacher said. She said it won over the community and proved to be a good move for the opera, as well.

After listening to the visiting experts, Kramer said their ideas and advice provided validation of what the local community already is doing. The organizations are cooperating, and the capacity is here, Kramer said. But, "when it comes to the arts, we're infrastructure poor," she said.

Steamboat Springs can grow the region's cultural and heritage tourism, she said. The new Main Street development group will be a big part of that, she said.

"We're ready to blossom," Kramer said.

--To reach Jennie Lay call 871-4210

or e-mail jlay@steamboatpilot.com

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