SPECIAL REPORT: Occupancy rates in the Pikes Peak region hit 19-year high

A view of downtown Colorado Springs taken by FOX21's drone, SKYFOX21
A view of downtown Colorado Springs taken by FOX21's drone, SKYFOX21

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — There’s Garden of the Gods, the Olympic Training Center and of course Pikes Peak.

Those of us who live here see them every day and occupancy rates show tourists want to see them too – which is one of the many reasons we’re seeing new hotels popping up across town.

It’s the second largest city in a state where it seems the masses are flocking to experience one kind of Rocky Mountain high or another.

“We are the 5th most desired state for people who want to come visit,” said Doug Price, President and CEO of the Colorado Springs Visitor’s Bureau.

The last time Colorado Springs saw as many visitors as it did in 2016, it was 1997. Bill Clinton was in office, the Titanic was in theaters, and FOX21 News wasn’t even born yet.

Occupancy rates in the newly dubbed Olympic City are at 19-year high.

“The demand generators have been very, very positive,” said Price. “The economy continues to move along at a great pace, fuel prices remain low, consumer confidence is high.”

The hospitality industry is catching on. Hotels are now opening left and right.

Near Old Colorado City, the family-owned Buffalo Lodge is transforming into the city’s first bicycle-themed hotel.

Of course there’s the newly opened Great Wolf Lodge, a family friendly resort and the first in Colorado with an indoor water park.

“We like to think that in Olympic City USA we do cater to families very, very much.” Price said, “It’s really kind of our bread and butter when you think about it. All the military people that are here, family travel is our number one market that comes to Colorado Springs.”

For those who fancy the finer things, in northeastern Colorado Springs near Black Forest is The Lodge at Flying Horse. It’s a private community with a recent addition of an upscale resort, which is completely open to the public.

Jeff Howell, Director of Sales and Marketing at The Lodge at Flying Horse said, “The quality of the build in a peaceful, quiet part of Colorado Springs easily accessible to Denver as well as those in El Paso County. I think that the style and the quiet is just perfect for what we do here.”

Perhaps, seeing the writing on the wall, the Flying Horse housing development began planning for the lodge back in 1996.

“As a city, it offers more than just about any other city in the whole country I think as far as what you can do for leisure activities, outdoors,” said Howell. “It’s a great hub for businesses. I know we have a lot of healthcare growing, cyber security, homeland defense, missile defense.”

We can’t forget the hotels in the works.

According to the Visitor’s Bureau, there are four hotels currently going up throughout Colorado Springs, some have broken ground and some are still making plans.

A Best Western Plus is under construction at Fillmore and I-25. A Hilton Garden Inn is breaking ground downtown any day now. At Powers and Stetson Hills, a Comfort Suites and Mainstay Hotel will also start soon and a 136-room hotel at south Nevada is to be determined.

“One of the key reasons that I think there’s been some pent up demand is there hasn’t been a lot of hotels built in Colorado Springs,” said Price.

The Mining Exchange and Holiday Inn Express at I-25 and Bijou were downtown’s newest hotels until this slew came along and Price says when the Olympic Museum and Hall of Fame break ground in the spring, Colorado Springs will need as much lodging as it can get.

Price said, “The research shows that 350,000 visitors a year will be coming to the Olympic Museum, 80 percent of those will come from outside the state of Colorado.”

The idea of tourism traffic may be frustrating but remember its southern Colorado’s bread and butter.

Thanks to revenue generated by visitors, the average family of four living in El Paso County saves about $633 a year on their tax bill. That’s over $50 a month or a night out at the movies.

“The tourism industry in this region is the third largest employer of jobs with over 17,000 people who depend on visitors for their livelihood,” said Price.

But what is it that keeps folks coming back to the Front Range?

“The mountain itself is so iconic.” Price said, “When you think about all the different ways you can summit it, by train, on foot, by car, by bike. I think that Pikes Peak really is our logo, our brand if you will.”

“It’s growing certainly faster in the last five years than it has in the last 20 that I’ve seen,” said Howell. “It’s fun to see new restaurants coming, unique restaurants and new hotels, all of that is an advantage for every one of us.”

Obviously a name like the Broadmoor, the only hotel in the world that’s been AAA five diamond rated for 41 years in a row, sitting right here in our back yard can be hard to compete with.

The folks at the Visitor’s Bureau and The Lodge at Flying Horse tell me the Broadmoor is another historic staple that makes Colorado Springs a hot destination.

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