Colorado Tourism Office questions Moffat County residents on visitor center | CraigDailyPress.com

Colorado Tourism Office questions Moffat County residents on visitor center

A welcome sign greets visitors to Dinosaur in 2017.

CRAIG — Colorado Tourism Office representatives met with the Moffat County Tourism Association and business owners in Craig Thursday and Friday, July 6 and 7, to ask how the tourism office can better serve the area, how best to increase tourism in the county and what to do with the welcome center in Dinosaur.

Colorado Tourism Office director Cathy Ritter said she was there to listen and become more aware of the region’s needs. Funding for the welcome center program hasn’t changed since 2004 and has consistently seen only about $500,000 from the state. Some of the challenges it now faces deal with a fixed budget and how to spend the money appropriately. The tourism office’s main goal is to increase the number of outside travelers visiting the state.

Travel and tourism have become competitive within the state, Colorado Tourism Office board member Doug Price said. The longer a visitor stays, the more money he or she spends. The tourism office hired a research company to advise it on how to improve tourism across the state.

The state hasn’t done a “deep-dive” on how effective it is in serving the half million people who have visited the welcome centers, Price said, and a task force was assembled to gauge visitor experience. As a result, the tourism office received a massive amount of information on suggested improvements, as well as what visitors liked about the state.

One of the recommendations from the tourism office board was to reduce funding for visitor centers in Dinosaur and Lamar over a period of three years, Ritter said. During that time the board will need to find alternatives on what to do with the centers. Some board members said they need more time to study the situation and come up with a better recommendation.

There are 10 welcome centers across Colorado serving visitors in a variety of ways.

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The state wants to reduce the paper trail associated with visitor centers and simplify funding, Ritter said. To that end, the office is moving toward a “sponsorship” model of funding for the centers.

The Dinosaur Visitor Center was the main focus of the discussion, particularly, what to do with it. Moffat County Commissioner Ray Beck wondered where the best place for a visitor center would be, if not in Dinosaur. Usually, Price said, the best places for visitor centers are the points at which visitors enter the state.

Beck said Moffat County has not yet fully recovered from the recession, and the county, he added, isn’t able to fund the visitor center at the level the state would be able to. He said the county recognizes the value of the center, however it is struggling, adding he doesn’t see anything on the horizon that will give the county the economic boost it needs. He said the county is trying to keep and preserve what it has.

Club 20 representative Tammie Thompson-Booker said Dinosaur intersects with many places and thinks if the visitor center were relocated, Craig might lose its connection to Dinosaur. Moffat County Tourism Association representative Tom Kleinschnitz added he thinks it is the fair choice to keep the visitor center in Dinosaur, due to the numerous places it intersects.

Dinosaur Visitor Center volunteer Larry Hoover said a considerable number of people who stop by the center also visit the monument, and some eventually go on to Rocky Mountain National Park. Were the center relocated to Craig, it would miss the people coming in from the west and north, he said.

Staffing the visitor center would be easier in Craig, a Craig business owner said, adding the center is closed during winter months and should be open year around.