Cultural tourism spikes in metro Denver, study says

Photo: Colorado Symphony performs at Red Rocks
The Colorado Symphony performs at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison.

The total number of tourists from outside Colorado visiting the Denver metro area and participating in cultural activities grew by 17 percent between 2011 and 2013, according to the results of a new study released Friday.

The study comes from the Colorado Business Committee for the Arts (CBCA), a non-profit organization based in Denver that seeks to connect the business and arts communities.

CBCA’s latest "Economic Activity Study of Metro Denver" report also shows that these visitors are spending 14 percent more in the region in 2013 compared to what they spent in 2011, the last time CBCA conducted the study.

"What we've seen in Denver tourism in the last year is an acceleration that's based on a lot of things, but the cultural community has clearly contributed to that," says Jayne Buck, VP of tourism at Visit Denver, the city's convention and visitors bureau. "There are more art exhibits. There's more attention to the great art and culture we have in the city. And it really makes a difference when you are telling the story of why Denver is a destination for out-of-town visitors."

The tourism statistics are the most dramatic results of the new report, which also shows that cultural organizations in the Denver Metro area generated $1.85 billion in total economic activity in 2013, up 5.1 percent from 2011.

The total economic activity numbers include operating costs, audience spending and capital expenditure for cultural programming.

However, the study shows a slight decrease in the amount of new money injected into the regional economy as a result of the metro area's cultural offerings, which came to $520.8 million, down 1.2 percent from 2011.

“There was less capital spending, less renovation and new buildings,” CBCA executive director Deborah Jordy says. “But we saw an increase in spending because we saw an increase in jobs and an increase in participation by audiences.”

Also, volunteerism in the arts in the Denver metro area is down by almost 12 percent on 2011 according to the study.

When talking about this statistic at an event organized by CBCA to announce the study results at the Sheraton Downtown Denver Hotel Friday morning, Lone Tree mayor, Jim Gunning, explained the fall off in volunteerism as being the result of a healthy economy.

Gunning said that because more people in the Denver area have jobs these days compared to two years ago, they have fewer hours to donate their time to cultural institutions.

Additional findings include:

  • Arts, cultural & scientific organizations employed 10,205 workers in 2013, up 9.1 percent from 2011. These arts professionals earned $150.7 million in payroll and expenses in 2013, up 4 percent over 2011.

  • Corporate giving to cultural organizations grew to $10.4 million, up 8.4 percent over 2011.

Founded in 1985, CBCA has been conducting this study every two years since 1992. The findings are based on data culled from the 300 cultural organizations that receive funding from the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District.