Denver wants your attention
June 22, 2010
If you’ve driven to Salt Lake City recently, you’ve likely seen signs asking drivers to visit Park City and Denver.
The Denver billboards are the result of a trend among travel bureaus to attract more regional visitors. The Park City Chamber/Bureau is doing it; the Utah Office of Tourism does it. Last year drivers on Utah highways were treated to billboards about Montana and television viewers were asked to enjoy the Wild West in Wyoming.
As always, the farther someone travels to vacation in a community, the longer they’re likely to stay and the more money they’ll probably spend, explained Jayne Buck, vice president of tourism for Visit Denver that area’s visitor bureau. But in the sluggish economy, it’s also worth it to spend money drawing in people from bordering states, she said.
Salt Lake City is not one of Denver’s top markets, she said. Those are Phoenix, Dallas and Kansas City, Mo. But Colorado as a state sees many Utah travelers, so the six billboards in this one are part of Denver’s participation in the statewide campaign for 2010.
Denver is one of Utah’s top markets, said Tracie Cayford, spokesperson for the Utah Office of Tourism. So are Las Vegas and Los Angeles, she said.
Summit County uses tax dollars to try to attract Utah vacationers instead of losing them to elsewhere like Denver but Cayford’s office is required by law to spend the money out of state, she said.
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Utah is putting its emphasis 80 percent of funding on television commercials this summer. They are the same ads used last year of a family touring the state in a vehicle piled high with various kinds of recreational equipment.
For Park City, Orange County, Calif. is an important market and is still considered "regional." Cayford said Southern California in general is one of the most important markets for Utah communities. Park City’s television ads also run in Idaho and Wyoming.
"We market where the fish are," Cayford added.
Because Salt Lake City is not one of Denver’s top markets, the six billboards were purchased because they’re cheaper than television, explained Justin Bresler, vice president of marketing for Visit Denver.
The Montana billboards last year were part of a larger outdoor advertising campaign continuing this year, said Sarah Lawlor, communications manager for the Montana Office of Tourism.
Montana’s outdoors are "breathtaking," she said, so billboards, empty storefronts, and bus wrap-arounds are all used to show outdoor scenes and hopefully transmit that beauty to people as they walk or drive, she said.
The Denver signs are after something different, Bresler said. They showcase the community’s "unique vacation experience."
"We sell an urban destination with proximity to outdoor adventure," added Buck.
So the billboards emphasize urban activities while hinting at the mountains nearby. Each sign features Visit Denver’s logo, which is an outline of skyscrapers against peaks.
"People who like urban destinations would probably like Denver," Buck said.
Even though people in the industry are hesitant to say anything negative about another place, Bresler confessed there is steep competition for visitors, and Visit Denver wants Utahns to keep Colorado’s capital in mind as a vacation option.
Buck said there are many similarities between Salt Lake City and Denver. If people enjoy living in Utah’s capital, they’d likely enjoy vacationing in Denver, she explained.
Denver has a Major League Baseball team and a King Tut artifact exhibit this summer, but the billboards are not that specific. Their purpose is to draw people to the community’s website, Bresler explained.
Lawlor said her Montana billboard campaign had a different goal. People already visit Yellowstone and Glacier national parks on trips to Montana from Utah. The billboards purchased last year were intended to get Utahns thinking about what else the state offers, she explained.
"We were focusing on people in an area we knew had familiarity with Montana who were looking for a deeper, enriching experience," she added. "What makes it tick? Go off the highway."
About 90 percent of travelers come by car, so getting Utahns to see more of Montana was the goal. It was successful in helping the state maintain its regular number of visitors while most states suffered a decline, she said.
Lawlor couldn’t say what impact the billboards had, but most states saw a 4 percent decrease in visitation in 2009 and she estimates the ad campaign helped her state remain steady and may have been a part of the increased tourist numbers Yellowstone National Park experienced.
View Billboards advertising Denver in a larger map