For the second consecutive holiday season, VISIT DENVER has begun constructing the Mile High Tree, a 110-foot, digital art installation in downtown Denver. Located at the corner of 16th Street and Welton Street, the festive structure will be open to the public November 20 – January 2 and is designed to bring holiday cheer and to help drive much needed business to the local tourism and hospitality community.
But, like many other things in 2020, the Mile High Tree experience will be different this year with COVID restrictions looming over the holiday season, and VISIT DENVER has adjusted the program to offer a socially distanced, COVID-safe experience that will attract local residents as well as visitors during such a difficult time for tourism and our entire community. Last year, the tree was a welcome addition to downtown holiday offerings, drawing tens of thousands of revelers who squeezed into the massive conical structure to take in the pre-programmed light shows choreographed to holiday music. This year, crowds will be intentionally limited by COVID capacity and safety standards as well as hours that adhere to the new 10 p.m. guidelines.
For VISIT DENVER, the tree is among a larger series of locally focused programs the organization has developed this year to come to the aid of the local tourism and hospitality industry in a time of need while continuing to serve as the official Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) for Denver. Data has indicated a limited number of COVID-19 cases can actually be attributed to tourism and hospitality due to the rigid safety protocols and enforcement efforts that have been put into place. But, that hasn’t stopped the pandemic from impacting a large part of the diverse industry that includes hotels, attractions, sporting events and every business touched by visitors and the many residents whose livelihoods depend on this important sector.
“Since COVID brought the entire travel industry to an abrupt halt, we have had to focus on taking care of our convention customers and visitors, and redirected much of our efforts toward serving as an advocate for our local partners while developing programs to aid in the economic recovery of our city,” said Richard W. Scharf, president and CEO of VISIT DENVER. “Beyond our tourism marketing role, we are doing everything we can to help support the product that we promote to visitors, and in the midst of this pandemic, that means helping our local hotels, businesses and attractions that rely on a healthy tourism economy to survive and keep our residents employed.”
From the onset of the pandemic, VISIT DENVER has stepped up to create various local programs to assist customers, partners and residents. When COVID forced the city to shut down earlier this year, it developed several online resources including ToGoDenver.com, which generated support for more than 900 struggling local restaurants, and VirtuallyDenver.com, which provided virtual access to dozens of Denver’s closed museums, attractions and cultural institutions. And during April stay-at-home orders,
the organization launched “Love This City Denver,” a seven-week online and social media initiative that rewarded residents with staycation experiences for future use once the city reopened.
When COVID restrictions forced the Great American Beer Festival to go to a virtual format in October, VISIT DENVER pushed forward with its annual Denver Beer Week to generate some much needed promotion for local breweries.
Last week, it wrapped up an abbreviated weekend version of its annual Denver Arts Week – rebranded as Denver Arts Week(end) - featuring more than 250 COVID-safe, in-person and virtual events across the city. And on November 13, VISIT DENVER will launch its first-ever fall Denver Restaurant Week designed to drive business to about 200 local eateries offering COVID-safe dine-in, take-out and delivery options.
Finally, VISIT DENVER will soon begin its 17th annual Mile High Holidays campaign that will promote Denver’s holiday activities across the metro area. The campaign will highlight everything from light displays and the Mile High Tree to shopping at local businesses and holiday events, all with the safety of locals and visitors top of mind.
For 111 years, VISIT DENVER has served as the City’s official booster, driving overnight leisure and convention visitors that create economic impact and jobs for the city and residents. Visitors also generate tax revenue that residents would otherwise have to pay. VISIT DENVER has successfully fulfilled that role for many years including 16 straight years of record marketable visitor numbers leading up to 2020.
“Tourism is a huge economic driver for the city, so our measure of success has always been to generate as many overnight travelers as possible, but the pandemic has forced us to look beyond visitor volume,” said Scharf. “We are optimistic that tourism will eventually rebound, but today, our primary focus is on lending our support to all the wonderful local businesses that make Denver such a great place to visit and live.”