Visitor revenue reached $7 billion in 2019 toppling previous record.
Just months before the COVID-19 global pandemic brought the world’s tourism and hospitality industry to a screeching halt, Denver tourism achieved its best year on record welcoming nearly 31.9 million visitors who generated $7 billion in revenue, further cementing The Mile High City’s place among the country’s top tourism destinations. Most significantly, marketable leisure travelers, the city’s most lucrative visitors and the focus of VISIT DENVER’s marketing efforts, grew for the 16th straight year reaching a city best of 7.5 million and increasing a strong 5 percent over 2018.
The numbers are according to the Longwoods International annual visitor profile study that was conducted before the pandemic and subsequent stay-at-home period. 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. Since 2006, one year after voters approved an increase in tourism spending, Denver has seen a 68 percent increase in tourism, compared to 24 percent nationwide.
“Despite the fact that the tourism industry has been devastated in 2020 because of COVID-19, these numbers instill optimism and hope that Denver is poised for a strong recovery,” said Richard Scharf, president and CEO of VISIT DENVER. “This illustrates yet another milestone for Denver tourism, marking the fourth straight year our city surpassed 31 million total visitors.”
Overnight visitor totals also exceeded previous levels reaching 17.7 million, up 2 percent from the previous year, and accounting for 86 percent of total tourism revenue for the year while overnight business trips to Denver – which include conventions and meetings – remained relatively flat.
“Although the landscape for travel in the short term is uncertain following this global crisis, we are confident that tourism will continue to be a key economic driver for our city helping to fill restaurants, museums, theaters and hotel rooms,” said Scharf. “A healthy tourism industry puts people to work and stimulates our local economy while generating tax dollars that residents would otherwise have to pay.”
VISIT DENVER markets Denver tourism and meetings year-round nationally and internationally through a combination of traditional advertising, public relations, social media, interactive programs and direct sales.
Key visitor numbers for 2019 include:
- Denver welcomed 17.7 million overnight visitors in 2019, a 2 percent increase over 2018.
- Overnight leisure visitors totaled 15.3 million, an all-time high.
- Marketable leisure visitors grew for the 16th straight year to 7.5 million, an increase of 5 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.
- Overnight visitor spending set new records totaling $6 billion, an increase of 8 percent.
- Denver overnight visitors spent more than $1.9 billion in Denver hotels and other lodging establishments, and nearly $1.2 billion on food and beverages.
- Expenditures by overnight visitors on transportation surpassed $1.7 billion. Purchases at retail stores were $674 million, while overnight vacationers and business travelers spent $537 million on paid attractions and other recreational and sightseeing activities.
- On average in 2019, the biggest spenders were marketable leisure visitors, who spent $171 per day; followed by business travelers who spent $147 per day marking the third consecutive year that marketable leisure visitors spent more per day than business travelers.
- An additional 14.2 million day visitors spent nearly $1 billion, bringing total spending to $7 billion, an increase of $500 million over 2018 totals.
The top states sending vacationers to Denver in 2019, apart from Colorado itself, were:
- New Mexico
- New York
The top cities from outside of Colorado sending leisure visitors to Denver in 2019 were:
- Los Angeles
- Albuquerque-Santa Fe*
- Dallas-Ft. Worth*
- New York
- San Francisco*
*Denotes a VISIT DENVER advertising market
Top Shopping/Entertainment Areas
Shopping and entertainment were popular tourist activities in Denver in 2019. The top shopping and entertainment centers visited by non-Colorado residents were (in order):
- 16th Street Mall
- Denver Union Station
- LoDo “Lower Downtown” Historic District
- Cherry Creek
- Denver Pavilions
- Larimer Square
- Denver Premium Outlets
- Outlets at Castle Rock
- FlatIron Crossing Mall
- Park Meadows Retail Resort
- Shops at Northfield/Stapleton
Top Attractions - Paid Admission
The top paid attractions visited by non-Colorado residents were (in order):
- Denver Zoo
- Buffalo Bill’s Museum/Grave
- Colorado Rockies
- Denver Botanic Gardens
- Denver Art Museum
- Denver Museum of Nature & Science/IMAX
- Colorado Railroad Museum
- Denver Broncos
- Lakeside Amusement Park
- Downtown Aquarium
Top Attractions - Free Admission
- Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre
- Coors Brewery
- Colorado State Capitol