The importance of cultural tourism continues to be a trend in CBCA’s biennial Economic Activity Study of Metro Denver Culture. CBCA’s 2018 study reported nearly $400 million in economic activity generated from audiences outside the metro area. That’s an 8% increase over 2015, which was the highest economic impact from cultural tourists ever reported by CBCA. That record was smashed in 2017.
Cultural tourism is one of the categories of “new money,” which CBCA includes in its calculation of total economic impact. These are dollars that weren’t previously circulating in the metro area and wouldn’t be without the presence of dynamic arts and cultural offerings.
The number of visitors from outside of Colorado attending arts, cultural and scientific organizations also hit an all-time in 2017 at 1.4 million people. That’s a 13% increase over 2015.
According to Longwoods International and VISIT DENVER, overall tourism in Denver reached 31.7 million people, bringing in $6.5 billion in revenues for the city in 2017. It was their 12th consecutive year of growth. More than half of those visitors stay overnight and spent 6% more than 2016. The Denver Zoo, Denver Botanic Gardens, Denver Museum of Nature & Science, Denver Art Museum and Colorado Railroad Museum were all listed as top paid attractions.
There are numerous organizations that report a significant amount of attendance that comes from outside the seven-county area, outside the state and outside the USA. They range from our internationally-renowned institutions to smaller or more regional attractions like Dinosaur Ridge, Molly Brown House, Butterfly Pavilion, Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus, Colorado Chautauqua, Colorado Ballet, etc.
One unique example of a cultural institution that attracts lots of cultural heritage seeking visitors is the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave.
The Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave, part of the City and County of Denver’s Denver Mountain Parks exists to preserve the memory of William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody. It maintains the Cody gravesite and related structures on Lookout Mountain Park; collects, cares for and interprets artifacts associated with “Buffalo Bill” Cody’s life and times between 1846 and 1917; and records Cody’s ongoing influence on American culture. The Denver Mountain Parks System was created in 1912 and also includes Red Rocks Amphitheater, Summit Lake and the Genesee bison herd.
William F. Cody died in 1917 and, according to Mrs. Cody and other close friends, he had asked to be buried on the mountain overlooking the Great Plains where he had spent so much of his life. The museum opened in 1921 with a collection of artifacts and eventually a shop.
“The history of the Denver Mountain Parks is the history of tourism in Denver,” says Shannon Dennison, Cultural Resources Administrator and Buffalo Bill Museum Director for City and County of Denver’s Mountain Parks. The Mountain Parks system was established because most out-of-state tourists were going to Colorado Springs or Estes Park as mountain gateways. Authorizing Buffalo Bill’s burial in the Mountain Parks system was a way to attract those visitors seeking an authentic Western mountain experience. Even at that time, leaders in the Denver metro area understood the economic powerhouse of tourism.
And now, 100 years after the death and burial of this iconic Western figure, that spirit lives on and thrives.
This is just one example of the many examples of cultural tourism in the region, as captured by CBCA’s study of economic activity. We anticipate that the importance of cultural tourism will continue to grow as we elevate the Denver metro region as an arts hub, attracting visitors and their wallets for years to come.