Tourism conference sees new possibilities

Photo by Helen Smith Fred Bunch of the Great Sand Dunes National Park opens the panel discussion at the 2019 “Mystic San Luis Valley Tourism Conference” at Adams State University as Liz Thomas Hensley, Theo Boudreaux, Carl Young and Amy Engle look on.

ALAMOSA — There is a renewed sense of excitement about tourism for the San Luis Valley and beyond.
During the 2019 “Mystic San Luis Valley Tourism Conference” held on Thursday at Adams State University, there was also a great deal of discussion about the future of tourism for the region and how the restructuring of the state’s regions by the Colorado Tourism Office will change the industry. There are also new possibilities ahead with the addition of Huerfano County to the newly designated region.
Kat Olance, president of San Luis Valley Tourism, gave the opening remarks for the event and introduced Fred Bunch, chief of resource management for the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve as the emcee.
One of the highlights of the event was an insightful panel discussion that included Bunch, Liz Thomas Hensley, Theo Boudreaux who serves as manager of Joyful Journey Hot Springs, Carl Young of the Huerfano County Tourism Association and Amy Engle of the Rio Grande County Tourism Office.
When the panel was asked what the phrase “Mystic San Luis Valley” means to them, there were a variety of responses. Hensley noted that she sees the title “Mystic San Luis Valley” as exciting because it “puts the San Luis Valley on the map.”
Young noted that the new region is an opportunity for “new partnerships and new connections.” He added that the region gives visitors an opportunity to experience “unspoiled Colorado.”
Engle agreed that putting the San Luis Valley in the title will be key.
The panel was also asked about the patterns and demographics of visitors that the Valley has seen in recent years. Boudreaux pointed out that he has seen a great deal of visitors from as far away as France and Germany and across the United States particularly New York. The other panelists agreed with this summarization and added that many visitors continue to come from Denver and the Front Range.
There was also consensus that many visitors are “fine with driving,” in order to do additional sightseeing. The Crane Festival is also a huge draw for tourists. Bunch noted that for the Great Sand Dunes, it depends on the season. In the summer, there are often a lot of families; during the fall there are mostly retirees and couples.
The panelists stressed the importance of knowing other options for guests should their original plans be rearranged due to unforeseen circumstances. There was also a great deal of agreement about the need for each of the counties to work together. Young observed that the region shares a great deal of historical ties, which is something the region can continue to build upon. As the discussion drew to a close Hensley pointed out that there are new opportunities ahead for “everybody to be at the table.”


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