Local Tourism Shifts Focus Amid Pandemic

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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. – The COVID-19 pandemic has cause many events to be cancelled, heavily impacting the local tourism and hospitality industries.

Officials from the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce and Visit Grand Junction said, while the situation is serious, they are adapting and working closely with local health agencies to keep the health and safety of residents a priority.

“One study done several years ago on Country Jam estimated an $11 million impact from that event alone,” said President and CEO of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, Diane Schwenke.

The Junior College World Series and Country Jam are just a couple of the countless events that have been canceled on the Western Slope.

“People are out of work because of what’s happened to the tourism industry,” said Schwenke.

According to Schwenke, employees in the hospitality and tourism industries account for the largest portion of recent unemployment applications.

“There is very definitely going to be an impact on sales tax,” said Schwenke, “it’s just kind of been this domino effect that has really hit our tourism industry and those businesses related to it.”

Visit Grand Junction is making marketing moves to secure future opportunities.

“We do have an opportunity to help this community come back,” said Elizabeth Fogarty, Director of Visit Grand Junction, “right now we are not marketing and welcoming people to our area, we are merely encouraging them and inspiring them in their future travels.”

Visit Grand Junction launched a new campaign on its website called ‘Rome from Home.’

“Images of our monument or Mount Garfield or Grand Mesa and this is so we can remain top of mind, while people are being responsible,” said Fogarty.

Preparing for when the time is right.

“Some of the research is beginning to suggest that when they do travel, they are not going to go to some of the traditional urban areas,” said Schwenke.

Meaning the Grand Valley has the potential to be an ideal post-pandemic travel destination.

“We’ve not got a lot of people, but we’ve got incredible recreation opportunities,” said Schwenke.

However, much is still left up to the future spread of this virus and the direction from the Mesa County Public Health Department.

“How we actually convince people that it’s safe to come out for those events and come to Grand Junction, is going to be a major challenge for all of us,” said Schwenke.

Diane told KREX 5, she’s still waiting on April‘s official numbers, but based on anecdotal information from the businesses right now, particularly in the lodging properties, they are seeing a 75% to 90% drop.

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