Ridgway Chamber presents the 2020 Annual Report
Accomplishments in 2020 include collaborating on grant applications that awarded more than $45,000 in funding and services to the community, and making updates and improvements to the Visitor Center and Heritage Park at the corner of Highways 62 and 550.
“Starting in March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic drastically impacted the chamber’s budget, operations and events. For nearly two months, Lodging Occupancy Tax (LOT) funds were close to zero due to a statewide “Stay at Home” order. Once visitors began to return, LOT tax funds recovered, but all events and Visitor Center operations were postponed,” wrote RACC Board President Tim Patterson in the report.
Despite the pandemic challenges, the chamber supported the town’s successful implementation of two Colorado Main Street mini grants and an AARP grant that totaled $15,000. Grant projects included the installation of picnic tables, landscape leveling and gravel, a new irrigation system, and a new outdoor visitor guide dispenser.
Also in partnership with the town, the Heritage Park and Ridgway Visitor Center Redesign Subcommittee was formed in response to a November 2020 Town Council meeting that identified the need to take further concrete steps towards revamping the two town assets. Consisting of members of Town Council and RACC staff and board as well as business, nonprofit and community members, the subcommittee will provide direction on the vision and priorities for the Visitor Center building.
In response to the Visitor Center closure, RACC staff created temporary signage that hangs in the Visitor Center southside windows. The signage features the five chamber themes (Outdoor Adventure, Health & Wellness, History & Heritage, Arts & Entertainment, Culinary Experiences) along with four new themes: Shopping, Accommodations, Travel Services, and Professional Services. These new themes not only help visitors find information on more business categories across all marketing platforms, but also increase visibility for chamber members with less tourism-based products and services. Sign content includes a QR code and website url to RidgwayColorado.com/plan-your-trip.
The chamber’s major priority for 2020 was RidgwayColorado.com content creation, site optimization and improvements to the user experience. The website continues to be the #1 Google search result for keyword "Ridgway Colorado". Plus, both the number of pages viewed per session and the new users have increased, demonstrating that the site is attracting more first-time visitors who are reviewing more content on the site. RACC staff also increased social media marketing efforts for the business and nonprofit community. As a result, #ridgwaycolorado followers on Instagram increased by 33% in 2020, and followers on Facebook increased by 11%.
For several years, the chamber has been on a path to educate visitors on how best to enjoy our local resources. The pandemic and related visitor trends reinforced the need for the organization to support the community by promoting awareness of responsible, sustainable tourism practices. Communications and marketing strategies are increasingly incorporating messages about ways to visit the Ridgway area that reinforce low-impact travel beneficial to the community. From hiring knowledgeable, local guides to Leave No Trace principles, chamber promotional platforms like the website and Visitor’s Guide provide several useful tips alongside information about our local businesses and attractions.
Other chamber marketing efforts in 2020 included a visitor e-newsletter, Colorado Creative Corridor promotion, a regional tourism campaign, a digital True Grit tour brochure, a shop local campaign, new content on Colorado.com, participation in Colorado Tourism Office’s Winter Co-Op Marketing Program, and the RACC Member of the Month program.