Denver continued its ascension as a top tourism destination in 2017 by welcoming a record 31.7 million total visitors including 17.4 million overnight visitors. Marketable leisure travelers grew by 8 percent and were largely responsible for generating the highest tourism revenue in the city’s history.

Overall tourism revenue reached a record $6.5 billion in 2017, a 5 percent increase over 2016, and overnight visitors spent a record $5.6 billion, 6 percent more than 2016.

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 marking the second straight year Denver surpassed 31 million total visitors and the 12th consecutive year that we have generated record leisure tourism numbers,” said Richard Scharf, president & CEO of VISIT DENVER, The Convention & Visitors Bureau. “Since voter approval to increase tourism marketing dollars in 2005, Denver tourism has grown by 65 percent compared to 24 percent nationally.”

Overnight leisure visitors increased by 2 percent in 2017, exceeding 15 million for the first time, while convention visitors remained flat.

“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 helps to fill airline seats, theatre seats and hotel rooms,” 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.”

Among other things, 2017 brought the addition of 2,605 new hotel rooms, 245 new restaurants, and a record 61 million travelers to Denver International Airport. Additionally, Denver continued to earn national acclaim in 2017 for its culinary and beer scenes, and it was named among the top places to live in the U.S. for the third consecutive year. 

Key visitor numbers for 2017 include:

  • Denver welcomed a record 17.4 million overnight visitors in 2017, up 1 percent over the 17.3 million in 2016.
  • Out-of-state leisure travelers comprised 81 percent of visitors whereas in-state leisure travelers totaled 19 percent.
  • Overnight leisure visitors totaled 15 million, a 2 percent increase over 2016.
  • The bulk of the increase was driven by the 8 percent growth in marketable leisure visitors, the segment that has the most discretion on where to vacation. This audience is the focus of much of VISIT DENVER’s marketing efforts and spends more than any other visitor type.
  • Visitor spending exceeded 2016 in all categories, and overnight visitors spent a record $5.6 billion in 2017, 6 percent more than 2016.
  • Denver visitors spent more than $1.7 billion in Denver hotels and other lodging establishments, and more than $1 billion on food and beverages.
  • Expenditures by visitors on transportation topped $1.5 billion.  Purchases at retail stores were $688 million, while vacationers and business travelers spent $536 million on paid attractions and other recreational and sightseeing activities.
  • On average in 2017, the biggest spenders were marketable leisure visitors, who spent $171 per day; followed by business travelers who spent $154 per day. Both figures increased over 2016, and 2017 marked the first time marketable leisure visitors spent more per day than business travelers.
  • An additional 14.3 million day visitors spent $921 million.

The top five states sending vacationers to Denver in 2017, apart from Colorado itself, were:

  • California
  • Texas
  • Florida
  • Illinois
  • Wyoming

The top seven cities from outside of Colorado sending leisure visitors to Denver in 2017 were:

  • Los Angeles
  • New York City
  • *Chicago
  • *Albuquerque-Santa Fe
  • *Dallas-Ft. Worth
  • *San Francisco
  • *Salt Lake City
  • *Houston

            *advertising markets

Top Shopping/Entertainment Areas

Shopping and entertainment were popular tourist activities in Denver in 2017. 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
  • Outlets at Castle Rock
  • Park Meadows Retail Resort
  • FlatIron Crossing Mall
  • Belmar

Top Attractions - Paid Admission

The top paid attractions visited by non-Colorado residents were (in order):

  • Denver Zoo
  • Denver Botanic Gardens
  • Denver Museum of Nature & Science/IMAX
  • Denver Art Museum
  • Colorado Rockies
  • Buffalo Bill Museum & Grave
  • Colorado Railroad Museum
  • Downtown Aquarium
  • Dinosaur Ridge
  • Children’s Museum of Denver

Top Attractions - Free Admission

  • Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre
  • Coors Brewery
  • Colorado State Capitol