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About The Northwest Colorado Cultural Heritage Tourism Program

Background Information

From the National Trust for Historic Preservation:
“What is cultural heritage tourism?

Cultural heritage tourism means traveling to experience the places and activities that authentically represent the stories and people of the past and present. It includes irreplaceable historic, cultural and natural resources. To learn more about cultural heritage tourism, go to

What benefits does cultural heritage tourism offer?

Tourism is big business. In 2006, travel and tourism directly contributed $740 billion to the U.S. economy. Travel and tourism is one of America’s largest employers, directly employing more than 8 million people and creating a payroll income of $178 billion. (Source: U. S. Travel Association, December 2006)

In addition to creating new jobs, new business and higher property values, well-managed tourism improves the quality of life and builds community pride. According to a 2003 national research study (The Historic/Cultural Traveler by the Travel Industry Association and Smithsonian Magazine) 81% (118 million) U.S. adults who traveled in 2002 were considered cultural heritage travelers. These travelers included historical or cultural activities on almost 217 million person-trips last year, up 13 percent from 192 million in 1996. Visitors to historic sites and cultural attractions stay longer and spend more money than other kinds of tourists. Cultural and heritage visitors spend, on average, $623 per trip compared to $457 for all U.S. travelers excluding the cost of transportation. (Source: 2003 The Historic/Cultural Traveler, TIA). Perhaps the biggest benefits of cultural heritage tourism, though, are diversification of local economies and preservation of a community’s unique character.”

This graphic from the Colorado Tourism Office demonstrates how visitors are spending their vacation dollars (in 2008). A large percentage of travelers/visitors engage in Cultural Heritage Activities.

The Northwest Colorado Cultural Heritage Tourism Project

Northwest Colorado Cultural Heritage Tourism(NWCCHT) is a regional initiative with the express goals of strengthening, supporting, and protecting our heritage assets while integrating significant and visitor-ready heritage sites and advancing cultural heritage tourism for regional economic development. The initiative began in 2005 with two overarching themes prevailing: equity
to ensure that all community areas benefit from this effort and the sense of unique places prevails in each area—creating a mosaic of the stories of places, people and power. Funded by a grant in 2009 from the Colorado Tourism Office, regional partners from Jackson, Moffat, Rio Blanco and Routt counties met to map and share cultural heritage resources within their region with the goal

  • Assessing Potential: Evaluating what attractions, visitor services, organizational capabilities, ability to protect resources and marketing existed in communities.
  • Planning and Organizing: Making good use of human and financial resources. Setting priorities and measurable goals.
  • Preparing for visitors: Protecting and managing cultural, historic and natural resources; looking to the future as well as the present to be sure the choices improve communities for the long and short term.
  • Marketing for success: Developing a multi-year, many tiered promotional plan targeting the cultural heritage traveler, and establishing partners in local, regional, state and national groups.
  • The initiative now includes Garfield County.


Opportunities to explore diverse landscapes—canyons and plateaus, valleys and peaks, high desert and mountain forests, rivers and lakes—are vast in Northwest Colorado. Travel distances between visitor- ready communities in this remote region are lengthy, but within the five county region there are several Scenic Byways, National Monuments, National Wildlife Refuges as well as National and State Parks and Forests which link the visitor to natural and cultural heritage experiences.

Disparity in visitor readiness in some of the towns, in terms of community support and funding to attract tourism as well as food and lodging amenities, is a challenge to the equitable promotion of cultural heritage tourism. However, the travel distances to access the region provide ample time and opportunity to tell the stories of place.

Branding the Northwest’s history of rugged individualism becomes the means to attract the heritage adventurer who is seeking new experiences and to promote tourism in the towns of these five northwest counties.


1. The first goal is partnership building and networking.

Recognizing the value of National and State—Scenic Byways, Forests, Parks, Monuments, Wilderness areas and Refuges—to cultural heritage and recreational tourism in Rio Blanco, Moffat, Routt , Jackson and Garfield counties, the NWCCHT Group continues to foster partnerships with agencies and individuals to enhance visitor experiences and equitably expand the economic impact in communities By demonstrating a knowledge and understanding of National and State agencies, the NWCCHT Group has created partnerships with the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Scenic Byways, Colorado Scenic Byways, USDA Forest Service, and others.

These partnerships ensure Northwest Colorado Cultural Heritage Tourism will complement existing interpretation while expanding themes and storylines to enhance the travelers’ experience. NWCCHT encourages partnerships to promote local community support and visitor readiness/hospitality, and is establishing a sustainable regional visitor program where communities in the counties partner in order to serve as gateways to cultural, natural and recreational opportunities, and share equitably in the CHT Story and the economic benefits of tourism.

2. A second goal of NWCCHT is to develop promotional materials to introduce the potential traveler to the region’s heritage assets.

These materials are designed to entice visitation, orient the traveler to the region’s resources and to interpret its heritage. Targeted travelers are both area residents and tourists from the Front Range and beyond. NWCCHT will choreograph potential visitor experiences for the heritage traveler. These opportunities for exploration and discovery will be varied in order to attract a broad audience and provide incentives for longer stays and repeat visits to the northwest. The NWCCHT developed a logo and tag line that carries through all the materials . The color brochure, “Boundless Landscapes & Spirited People” was the initial product of this effort and depicts the region with map, legend, community highlights and regional stories. Rack cards for the specific communities have also been produced and distributed for use in the various chambers and kiosks. The group is currently putting together text and photos to be used on the gateway signs in seven communities that will be erected in 2012.

In addition, NWCCHT is identifying existing interpretive and heritage tourism opportunities in the region and will promote them as a collective heritage tourism experience. By collectively promoting the public lands and Scenic Byway tourism and interpretive opportunities in tandem with the communities’ heritage, the NWCCHT will create a richer, more layered tourism experience.


Interpretive Media / Visitor Orientation

NWCCHT plans to develop community-specific interpretive media following the template established by the region-wide brochure, but focusing content on the communities’ connection to the primary themes and the stories they harbor. This media will provide more specific information about the history and resources of each community. It should build on existing walking tours or other interpretive resources already in place.

Initially the website will serve as an orientation hub where visitors can learn more about the region. Currently it includes a map and a list of suggested destinations. This site will also contain links to other tourism outlets where visitors can learn more and obtain logistical trip planning information (e.g. lodging, hours of operation). In the near future the website will include additional resources and virtual interpretive opportunities, for example, videos, oral histories, interactive maps, calendars, reports.

If you have anymore questions about the Northwest Colorado Cultural Heritage Tourism program, or if you would like to get involved, please contact us!

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