Denver’s rise as a top tourism destination continued in 2016 as the city welcomed 31.5 million total visitors for the first time, including 17.3 million overnight visitors. Overnight visitors surpassed 2015 totals by nearly one million visitors, a 6 percent year-over-year increase. Overnight visitors also spent 5 percent more than they did in 2015, establishing a new tourism revenue record for Denver of $5.3 billion.
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 is a milestone year marking the first time Denver surpassed 30 million total visitors and the 11th consecutive year that we have generated record tourism numbers,” said Richard Scharf, president & CEO of VISIT DENVER, The Convention & Visitors Bureau. “Since voters approved an increase of tourism marketing dollars in 2005, Denver has seen tourism grow nearly three times the pace of the national average, 62 percent for Denver, compared to 22 percent nationally.”
Overnight leisure visitors increased by 7 percent in 2016 totaling 14.7 million, while business travelers remained flat at 2.6 million. Within the leisure travel category, 8.3 million travelers were visiting friends and relatives, while 6.4 million were “marketable” visitors, which are travelers who could go anywhere and chose to visit Denver. In addition to the 17.3 million overnight visitors, Denver also generated a record 14.2 million day visitors. Longwoods results also reported that Denver out-of-state leisure visitors remained strong comprising 80 percent of overnight leisure visitors in 2016.
“Tourism is a huge economic driver for our city, and we are pleased we have been able to build on our success in driving visitor demand that fills our hotels, restaurants and attractions, while also driving tourism throughout Colorado,” said Scharf. “A healthy tourism brand stimulates business, and we are fortunate that Denver is so committed to investing in a tourism product that will keep us competitive well into the future.”
The year 2016 brought a record 58.3 million travelers to Denver International Airport and a convenient new rail connection between the airport and Denver Union Station. Additionally, Denver earned national acclaim in 2016 for its culinary and beer scenes, and it was named among the top places to live in the U.S. for the second consecutive year.
The Mile High City’s larger tourism strategy is guided by the Denver Tourism Roadmap, a long-term, strategic vision for Denver tourism that was created through a year-long, community-wide process and launched last November by Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock and VISIT DENVER. The plan offers a vision for smart tourism growth to ensure that Denver remains a top visitor destination while enhancing quality of life for its residents.
Key visitor numbers for 2016 include:
Denver welcomed a record 31.5 million total visitors in 2016, including 17.3 million overnight visitors up 6 percent over the 16.4 million overnight visitors in 2015.
Overnight leisure visitors totaled 14.7 million, a 7 percent increase over 2015, compared to a national increase of 1 percent.
The number of people coming to Denver for conventions and business travel in 2016 remained flat totaling 2.6 million, while dropping 1 percent nationally.
Overnight visitors spent a record $5.3 billion in 2016, 5 percent more than 2015 with increases in all spending categories.
Denver visitors spent more than $1.5 billion on Denver hotels and other lodging establishments, and more than $1 billion on food and beverages.
Expenditures by visitors on gas, car rentals and other local transportation purchases topped $1.5 billion. Purchases at retail stores were $660 million, while travelers spent $476 million on the city’s paid attractions and other recreational and sightseeing activities.
On average in 2016, the biggest spenders were business travelers, who spent $145 per day; followed by marketable leisure visitors who spent $142 per day, then followed by people visiting friends and relatives, who spent $69 per day. Spending by business travelers and those visiting friends and relatives dipped slightly while spending by marketable leisure visitors increased from $136 per day.
Nearly eight in 10 visitors agreed strongly that Denver is a place they would “really enjoy visiting again.”
The top 10 states sending vacationers to Denver in 2016, apart from Colorado itself, were:
- New York
The top 10 cities from outside of Colorado sending leisure visitors to Denver in 2016 were:
- Los Angeles
- New York City
- San Francisco
- Kansas City
- Washington, D.C.
Top Shopping/Entertainment Areas
Shopping and entertainment were popular tourist activities in Denver in 2016. The top shopping and entertainment centers were (in order):
- 16th Street Mall
- Cherry Creek
- LoDo “Lower Downtown” Historic District
- Denver Pavilions
- Larimer Square
- Outlets at Castle Rock
- Denver Union Station
- Park Meadows Retail Resort
- FlatIron Crossing Mall
Top Attractions - Paid Admission
The top paid attractions visited were (in order):
- Denver Zoo
- Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre
- Denver Art Museum
- Denver Botanic Gardens
- Buffalo Bill Museum & Grave
- Colorado Rockies
- Denver Museum of Nature & Science/IMAX
- Downtown Aquarium
- Colorado Railroad Museum
- Denver Broncos
Top Attractions - Free Admission
- Coors Brewery
- Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre
- Colorado State Capitol