Tourism chugs right along

So far, Mesa Verde, D&SNG, hotels have more visitors than 2011

Through mid-June, the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad has seen a 10 percent increase in ridership compared with 2011. That number is a reflection of how the rest of Durango’s tourism is faring. Overall, Durango’s lodgers tax was up 15.2 percent in April this year, compared to 1.9 percent last year. Enlarge photo

DAVID BERGELAND/Durango Herald file photo

Through mid-June, the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad has seen a 10 percent increase in ridership compared with 2011. That number is a reflection of how the rest of Durango’s tourism is faring. Overall, Durango’s lodgers tax was up 15.2 percent in April this year, compared to 1.9 percent last year.

Mother Nature has been kind so far this tourism season, and local businesses say her cooperation is bringing tourists to the area earlier than normal and boosting their bottom lines.

The city’s lodgers tax was up 15.2 percent in April and year-to-date is up 7.5 percent. This is a dramatic increase compared with the last two years: 2011 was up only 1.9 percent and 2010 was down 2.7 percent, said Anne Klein, marketing director for the Durango Area Tourism Office.

“I’d attribute it to good weather,” she said.

The General Palmer Hotel’s occupancy numbers are higher than they have been for the last four years, said General Manager Paula Nelson.

Nelson attributes the increase to tourists’ desire for a vacations after having their nose to the grindstone for so long while waiting out the recession.

“I think that, to some degree, people are just ready for a vacation and are just going to do it,” Nelson said. “I think they have gotten used to the economy being what it is, and they are saving and choosing to take that vacation anyway.”

Tourists also are coming to town earlier.

The Rochester Hotel had its best May after being open for 20 years, said owner Kirk Komick.

The hotel had about a 5 percent increase in occupancy compared with previous recent May months, and tourists are booking in advance. It already is full for the first stage of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, which is being held in Durango on Aug. 20.

Durango Mountain Resort also saw an increase in May with about a 30 percent increase in people at the resort during Memorial Day for the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic, spokeswoman Kim Oyler said.

“From what I’ve been hearing, there is more consumer confidence out there, and people still perceive Durango as an affordable vacation spot,” said Jack Llewellyn, executive director of the Durango Chamber of Commerce. “Once you get here, you have a variety of hotels that cost anywhere from $99 a night to $250 a night. It just depends on what you’re looking for.”

It’s not just the hotels seeing an increase. Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad through mid-June has had a 10 percent increase in ridership compared with last year, said Andrea Seid, marketing manager for the railroad.

The railroad opened a new exhibit for one weekend, the Dino Train, which took riders to a theme park located three miles north of Durango in the Animas Valley. Seid says the train’s events typically draw more people from out of state, and the Dino Train served a couple thousand people from June 15 to 17.

Mesa Verde National Park, too, has seen an increase from 2011 of about 4 percent year-to-date, according to Betty Lieurance, public information officer for the park.

jdahl@durangoherald.com