DENVER (CBS4) – As of January 2020, the state has lost billions of dollars in tourism. However, according to Colorado tourism experts, the recovery is believed to be on the horizon in the near future.

Hope is greater for those in rural parts of the state.

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“I feel safer now than when I tried to travel a year ago. Nobody wanted to do that back then, ”said Chris Watson and waited for a ride in front of Union Station. He went from New Orleans to Buena Vista, where a friend invited him. “Get some good mountain air.”

(Credit: CBS)

Tourism is a major source of employment and tax revenue in Colorado, and it still hurts across the state.

“As of January 2020, our state has lost about $ 10 billion in travel spending, and those numbers keep rising because we’re still not back where we were,” said Cathy Ritter, director of the Colorado Tourism Office.

The sense of recovery grows. Colorado is in the middle of recovering from the pandemic, says Ritter, but better off than some.

“There is still a lot of interest in road trips this year, but there is still great interest in air travel,” said Ritter. “It is really amazing to see how much the vaccine has had an impact on travelers’ attitudes.”

Surveys show that people are interested in protection from COVID-19. Travelers think about things they would never have thought of two years ago.

“Anyone who thinks things will be back to 2019 is disillusioned. There is a profound change in our psyche, across the country. In terms of what people are looking for when traveling. “

Lodge operator Jessica Lovelace spoke to Mellow Moon staff in Del Norte.

“Will we still wear masks? Will we still clean the rooms during the stay as we currently do not offer cleaning during the stay? To protect both our employees and our guests? “

Initially, her place was badly hit by the pandemic in March 2020, just a year after it opened.

“In the first week they shut everything down, we handled nearly $ 20,000 worth of cancellations. We couldn’t hang up the phone. It was just a cascade. It was very scary for a small business owner. “Then they found people who wanted to escape the density. “People just wanted to get out of town and get some fresh air, and you can go on a hike or bike ride here and really not meet a lot of people.”

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It was a completely different story until May, when she tried to withdraw from herself.

“My husband called me halfway through my stay and said you had to come back. I can’t take it anymore. We’re too busy. “

The lodge has dealt intensively with COVID-19 issues. They have outdoor seating and guests don’t have to go to a lobby to check in. You will receive an SMS with a room access code. Del Norte turned out to be the perfect location and Lovelace’s timing turned out to be ideal.

“Tourism recovery is an extremely complex issue and many parts have to come together for full recovery,” said Ritter. “The current forecast for tourism recovery is three to four to five years, depending on where you are in the country. Colorado could return a little quicker due to its interest in the great outdoors. “

The towns on the Front Range hurt. Denver saw a 69% drop in visitors in the eight months following the pandemic outbreak, Ritter says. This year could bring people back with big events and the all-star game of baseball is a sign of life. New attractions like that Return of the rack railway to Pike’s Peak and a new summit house will attract people there.

(Credit: CBS)

Palisade brings the Palisade Plunge, a mountain bike trail from Grand Mesa to town. That fresh air could be a key.

Some places are struggling to hire staff because people have left tourism for other jobs. Another problem could be getting a message about the safety of COVID-19.

“There is still fear out there and that is part of what we have to overcome as a marketing organization,” said Ritter. “We have never had to deal with problems like this in the past, and so it is a new way of delivering communications.”

Lovelace found the right combination with the Mellow Moon and is now adding additional rooms. Last year is in the books.

“There were many late nights, many tears, a lot of fear of bankruptcy,” she said.

Now it looks good.

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“People just want to get out there and do something, vaccines and safety and just the fact that we know so much more today than we did a year ago.”