By Beth Buehler
Colorado is top-ranked nationally among the seven Rocky Mountain states in the U.S. for a broad range of attributes, including ratings from visitors as the most fun, beautiful, casual, sophisticated, relaxed, luxurious, charming, hip and romantic, according to the Colorado Tourism Office. It’s also ranked No. 1 in several product categories: skiing, snowmobiling, climbing/ziplining, touring/sightseeing, kid-friendly, cultural, hidden gems, shopping and nightlife.
What does this mean for companies searching for a place to recognize top performing employees and clients? Colorado is confirmed as a desirable location for incentive travel trips and related activities, as well as a bucket list destination for domestic and international travelers. Based on 14 years of writing about the meetings and events industry, I’ve identified seven distinct reasons why Colorado excels as an incentive travel destination.
City & Mountain Experiences. It’s possible to have both a city and mountains on one itinerary. Communities like Denver, Colorado Springs and Boulder have an urban flair, distinct personalities and enviable locations right at the foothills of mountains. Book lodging in two places to savor both or take easy day trips, perhaps using Amtrak’s’ Winter Park Express ski train from Denver Union Station to the base of Winter Park Resort and back.
Or a progressive ski town shuffle is an option, flying into Denver to catch one of eight professional sports teams in action (e.g., Broncos, Avalanche, Nuggets and Rockies) or a performance at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts first before heading to Summit County to stay in one hotel and choose from a large selection of year-round outdoor activities at ski resorts like Copper Mountain, Breckenridge, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin. The Broadmoor, celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2018, has both a large resort in Colorado Springs and two nearby mountain getaways, The Ranch at Emerald Valley and Cloud Camp.
Amazing Activities. Colorado truly rises to the top of incentive travel locations based on the incredible number of activities available, regardless of whether a trip participant loves adventure, culture, history or anything culinary driven or a combination of these options. Perhaps it’s a world-renowned concert venue such as Red Rocks Amphitheatre near Denver, festivals such as Telluride Blues & Brews and Aspen Food & Wine, or activities that most people aren’t able to try where they live such as river rafting, horseback riding, skiing, snowboarding, zip lines, sleigh rides and dog sledding.
Team-Building Options Galore – Stellar Colorado-style activities can serve a double purpose in the form of team-building. CBST Adventures delivers experiential leadership, team-building and community impact options around the state, and Colorado Wilderness Rides and Guides and several Colorado-based destination management companies (DMCs) also offer a whole menu of options to groups. Imagine your team being part of CBST-led trail maintenance in Denver or the mountains or helping those in need with CamperQuest, mini-golf courses built with non-perishable foods that are donated to a good cause or a community garden project.
Award-Winning Destination Management Companies – A bunch of time and brain cells can be saved by booking the experts from Colorado-based DMCs to plan entire incentive trips that work in tandem with a company’s purpose and brand or just certain pieces of the puzzle like transportation, activities and award galas. Alpine Access, DSC, Imprint Group, Operation Altitude, Realize Colorado and RMC have landed recognition on state, national and international levels and can help work within set budgets and find lodging options, venues, suppliers and activities that best suit a group’s needs.
Food & Beverage Paradise – Getting a taste of local continues to be a high point of incentive trips and any group gatherings. Colorado is a mecca for microbreweries and distilleries in both small towns and large and is gaining a reputation for excellent Western Slope and urban wineries. There are chefs that own farms and ranches, restaurants and hotels with kitchen and rooftop gardens, the Colorado Convention Center in Denver with it’s own garden and beehives, and dinners in orchards and farm fields. Viceroy Snowmass in Snowmass and Madeline Hotel & Residences in Telluride have even arranged farmer’s markets for groups to meet farmers and producers and to shop for items to bring home or back to their rooms to snack on.
Western Aura – Colorado’s culture is best described as friendly, authentic, fit and innovative. Locals take the time to meet and interact with visitors, and there is a relaxed pace of living that breathes itself into customer service that aims to please. A growing population confirms that Colorado is a place people are seeking to live, which has translated into an impressive number of top-notch speakers, authors, athletes, entrepreneurs and educators that call this place home and are accessible to groups.
Memorable Resorts & Hotels – Whether planners are looking for high-end properties like Four Seasons, Ritz-Carlton and St. Regis or historic beauties like Hotel Jerome in Apsen, The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Hotel Boulderado in Boulder or The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colorado delivers memorable places to rest, meet and enjoy. For something truly unique and secluded, head for C Lazy U Ranch near Granby or Gateway Canyons Resort & Spa, located an hour south of Grand Junction in canyon country and created by John Hendricks, founder and former chairman of the Discovery Channel and Discovery Communications.
The opportunities for crafting a Colorado incentive trip that employees and clients will remember are nearly endless. The only limit is your imagination!
Beth Buehler is editor of Colorado Meetings + Events and Mountain Meetings magazines, has planned numerous meetings and events and enjoys exploring Colorado in all seasons.