For the third consecutive year, Denver welcomed more than 31 million visitors in 2018, further cementing its place among the country’s top tourism destinations. The overall 2018 visitor totals reached near-record levels, and year-over-year tourism revenue matched the 2017 record total of $6.5 billion. And, significantly, marketable leisure travelers grew for the 15th straight year, reaching a record 7.1 million.
The numbers are according to the Longwoods International annual visitor profile study. Longwoods has been studying Denver visitors since 1994 and conducts research that provides a standard visitor tracking tool for many of the country’s top tourism destinations.
“This illustrates yet another milestone for Denver tourism, marking the third straight year our city surpassed 31 million total visitors and the 15th consecutive year that we have generated increases in marketable leisure travelers – the city’s most valuable visitors and the focus of VISIT DENVER’s marketing efforts” said Jayne Buck, vice president of Tourism for VISIT DENVER, The Convention & Visitors Bureau. “Since 2006, one year after voters approved an increase in tourism spending, Denver has seen a remarkable 64% increase in tourism, compared to 22% nationwide.”
Overnight leisure visitors maintained near-record levels, reaching 14.9 million in 2018, while overnight business trips to Denver – which include conventions and meetings – remained relatively flat.
“Tourism continues to be a key economic driver for our city, and we are pleased we have been able to build on our success in driving visitor demand that helps to fill airline seats and hotel rooms,” said Richard Scharf, president and CEO of VISIT DENVER. “A healthy tourism brand puts people to work and stimulates a wide variety of local restaurants, attractions and cultural institutions that visitors and locals alike enjoy. It also generates tax dollars that residents would otherwise have to pay.”
Among other things, 2018 brought the addition of 4,650 new hotel rooms, more than 250 new restaurants, and a record 64.5 million travelers to Denver International Airport. Additionally, Denver continued to earn national acclaim in 2018 for its culinary and beer scenes, and it was named among the top places to live in the U.S. for the fourth consecutive year.
Key visitor numbers for 2018 include:
- Denver welcomed 17.3 million overnight visitors in 2018, matching the record 2017 totals.
- Out-of-state leisure travelers comprised 83 percent of visitors (up from 81 percent in 2017) whereas in-state leisure travelers totaled 17 percent (down from 19 percent in 2017).
- Overnight leisure visitors totaled 14.9 million, statistically equal to the previous year.
- Marketable leisure visitors grew for the 15th straight year to 7.1 million, an increase of two percent. This segment has the most discretion on where to vacation and responds to tourism marketing. This audience is the primary focus of much of VISIT DENVER’s marketing efforts and spends more time and money in-market than any other visitor type.
- Length of stay by leisure visitors also increased in 2018, growing to 3.0 days, up from 2.8 days in 2017.
- Overall visitor spending matched 2017’s record numbers, with overnight visitor spending in 2018 again reaching $5.6 billion.
- Denver overnight visitors spent more than $1.7 billion in Denver hotels and other lodging establishments, and a record $1.1 billion on food and beverages.
- Expenditures by overnight visitors on transportation reached nearly $1.6 billion. Purchases at retail stores were $660 million, while overnight vacationers and business travelers spent $535 million on paid attractions and other recreational and sightseeing activities.
- On average in 2018, the biggest spenders were marketable leisure visitors, who spent $166 per day; followed by business travelers who spent $146 per day marking the second consecutive year that marketable leisure visitors spent more per day than business travelers.
- An additional 14 million day visitors spent $919 million, bringing total spending to $6.5 billion, matching last year’s record total.
The top states sending vacationers to Denver in 2018, apart from Colorado itself, were:
- New York
The top cities from outside of Colorado sending leisure visitors to Denver in 2018 were:
- Los Angeles
- New York City
- Dallas-Ft. Worth*
- Kansas City*
*Denotes a VISIT DENVER advertising market
Top Shopping/Entertainment Areas
Shopping and entertainment were popular tourist activities in Denver in 2018. The top shopping and entertainment centers visited by non-Colorado residents were (in order):
- 16th Street Mall
- Cherry Creek
- LoDo “Lower Downtown” Historic District
- Denver Union Station
- Denver Pavilions
- Larimer Square
- Park Meadows Retail Resort
- Outlets at Castle Rock
- FlatIron Crossing Mall
- Shops at Northfield/Stapleton
Top Attractions - Paid Admission
The top paid attractions visited by non-Colorado residents were (in order):
- Denver Zoo
- Denver Art Museum
- Colorado Rockies
- Denver Botanic Gardens
- Denver Museum of Nature & Science/IMAX
- Colorado Railroad Museum
- Buffalo Bill’s Museum/Grave
- Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus
- Denver Broncos
- Denver’s Downtown Aquarium
Top Attractions - Free Admission
- Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre
- Coors Brewery
- Colorado State Capitol