New tourism coordinator optimistic about area’s future

Stepping into a position that, by some measures, could be called difficult, Jennifer Green has taken a sanguine view of her situation. As Pagosa Springs’ new town tourism committee coordinator, Green sees opportunity in a climate others might view as gloomy.

Despite Lodger’s Tax revenue numbers showing a 3.4-percent decrease in 2008, with hotel tax revenues (Lodger’s Tax derived solely from hotels) down over 15 percent, Green prefers to highlight areas where tourism metrics provide encouraging indicators of the area’s allure to visitors.

“If you look at the revenues by quarter, we were up in the third quarter of last year,” Green said, referring to the period between July and September that has traditionally been the town’s biggest revenue driver, generating twice as much money as any other quarter. “That mattered the most. Despite gas at over four dollars a gallon and the economy on the brink of disaster, we saw those numbers go up from last year.”

Green is also enthusiastic about numbers that indicate a growing interest in the Pagosa area. Referring to a recent study released by the Town Tourism Committee (TTC), Green said, “Our conversion study indicated substantial growth in interest. In 2007, only 37 percent of our visitors were first-time visitors. In 2008, that was 65 percent. Of all repeat visitors, 76 percent say they’ll return.”

Of those returning, Green said, the number one reason was, “The warmth and friendliness of the area.”

Furthermore, Green reported, requests for visitor packets were up 20 percent in 2008, while the release of new brochures in late summer saw a whopping 79-percent increase in visitor inquiries.

A resident for just over a year, Green moved to Pagosa Springs from Boulder. With a degree in economics and a background in finance, Green spent her time in Boulder working in the high-tech industry, mostly as a marketing consultant. After visiting the area, Green said, “I fell in love with the area and figured out a way to move here.”

Just five weeks at her job (on contract with the town), Green articulated her vision for the TTC and its place in boosting tourism in the area. “The TTC has done a great job moving into a new era. They’ve reduced their print media budget by $40,000 and are moving more online to promote tourism.”

Technology aside, Green suggests that the face of tourism in the Pagosa area is changing, “It’s taking a new direction,” she said, referring again to the conversion study data, “The people aspect, the wilderness aspect, the healing aspect, our study found that a large number of visitors said they were here to connect with self.”

Beyond new directions for how to attract visitors, get them here, and appealing to their reasons for coming, Green hopes to more effectively promote local events as a means to increase visitor traffic. “We’re going to be carefully tracking everything we do, all the money spent to improve the visibility with events.”

More than that, Green says she hopes to improve the visibility of what the TTC does. “In 2009, we need to communicate more effectively so residents know where lodger tax dollars are going.”

With a tough road ahead of her and a depressed economy placed prominently in the way, Green remains confident in her future for tourism in the Pagosa area, saying her desire is to, “Work with the community to improve the visitor experience and the ongoing increase of first time and repeat visitors to Pagosa Springs.”

jim@pagosasun.com