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Fewer travelers came to Colorado in 2016, tourism office blames waning interest in legal weed

Colorado’s workhorse “Come To Life” tourism advertising campaign lured fewer travelers in the spring and summer of 2016, but those visitors spent more.

Spending among out-of-state travelers who viewed the ads increased 4 percent, even though the number of Colorado-bound tourists fell 9.5 percent, according the Colorado Tourism Office’s latest research.

Researchers blamed waning interest among marijuana tourists — visitors who traveled to Colorado largely for the legal weed — for the drop in advertising-influenced visitors.

“2016 represented a return to the more usual Colorado traveler,” Colorado Tourism Office director Cathy Ritter said, noting that the latest research shows the novelty of being able to purchase and consume marijuana has leveled off and Colorado is attracting a slightly older, more affluent traveler who leaves more cash in their wake.

Marijuana tour in Denver

Craig F. Walker, The Denver Post

Mike Goldstein of New York photographs himself with plants at La Conte’s grow facility during a marijuana tour hosted by My 420 Tours in Denver on Dec. 6, 2014. During the day tourists visited La Conte’s grow facility, La Conte’s Clone Bar & Dispensary, Native Roots dispensary and Illuzions Glass Gallery.

According to Indianapolis-based Strategic Marketing and Research Insight, influenced spending — tourism speak for money spent by tourists who viewed ads in markets where promoters cast their nets — reached $2.72 billion in the spring and summer of 2016, up about $120 million compared with the previous record-setting year. But the number of visitors saying they came to Colorado after seeing the “Come To Life” ads fell to 1.9 million last year from a high of 2.1 million in the spring and summer of 2015. In 2014, the ad campaign generated 1.7 million trips to Colorado, stirring a $2.6 billion impact.