A healthy tourism economy is built and supported by Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) such as VISIT DENVER, The Convention & Visitors Bureau, that use a portion of the local Lodger's tax and private membership dollars to market Denver as a visitors' destination.

Denver visitors stimulate the local economy and benefit hotels, meeting facilities, attractions, restaurants, art and cultural institutions, tour companies, transportation providers, local farmers and countless other businesses. Tourism also offers many benefits for Denver residents and improves quality of life for the community.

Through the COVID-19 pandemic, the global tourism and hospitality industry has been disproportionately impacted. In the U.S. alone, domestic leisure spending was down 35% across the country in 2020, according to U.S. Travel Association, and Denver was no exception.

The 2020 results, while not unexpected, can also be seen as a short-term aberration, one that is important to benchmark as we put the pandemic behind us and work to match – and exceed – our record 2019 numbers in the near future.


According to Longwood International, in 2020, the most recent full year for which data is available, Denver welcomed 13.4 million overnight visitors, down 23% from the 17.7 million the city hosted in 2019, reflecting the impacts of the pandemic. Visitor spending was also impacted in 2020, with overnight visitors spending $4.3 billion dollars, a 28% decline from the previous year.

While there are obvious reasons for these declines given the overall decline in travel, there are some particular reasons why Denver’s numbers dropped as they did:

  • Many of Denver’s hotels were offline during a portion of 2020 due to COVID-related closures
  • Lodging patterns changed during the early stages of recovery, with more people choosing bed & breakfasts, time-shares and campgrounds instead of traditional lodging, which do not generate Lodger’s Tax and is not tracked by reporting services. Longwoods reporting a 10% increase in usage of these types of accommodations, according to Longwoods.
  •  The number of people visiting only for the day remained remarkably flat in 2020 compared to 2019, diluting the number of people who might have stayed the night prior to COVID

Despite the decline in visitation, the tourism spending continues to have a positive impact on both Denver and Colorado residents. Dean Runyan Associates has been studying this impact for years in the state, measuring the amount of taxes residents save due to the impact of tourism spending. In 2020:

  • The average Denver City & County household saved $784.05 in State & Local taxes
  • The average Denver Metro household saved $327 in State & Local taxes
  • The average Colorado household saved $454.86 in State & Local taxes


Sources: Dean Runyan Associates, Colorado Travel Impacts 2000-2020; Longwoods International, Travel Year 2020

Business and leisure travelers to Denver are having a positive financial impact locally. Meet some of the business owners and industry professionals who make their living and create jobs through the power of tourism.

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