Colorado’s Agritourism Market Climbing, Says New Colorado State University Report

Note to Editors: Editor’s note: A full version of the report is available at or by visiting and clicking on the header for this release.

Colorado’s abundant wildlife, vineyards and vast agricultural landscapes help draw thousands of visitors to the state and are ripe in potential to anchor emerging agritourism markets, according to a recent Colorado State University study.

Hunting and fishing excursions, camping, wine tasting and microbrewery visits, farm and ranch visits, wildlife viewing and food festivals are all considered elements of the state’s agritourism sector. In terms of popularity:

–Farm activities were the top draw (60 percent of visits in south-central Colorado; 61 percent in the mountain region).

— Culinary activities came in second (39 percent of Western Slope visits; 34 percent of Front Range visits).

— Heritage activities such as visiting farm and ranches or museums that showcase the agricultural history of the state were third.

— Counties in Colorado’s Central mountain region witnessed the most agritourism visits in the state followed by the West Slope and Southwestern Colorado.

— A large number (45 of 64) of Colorado’s counties hosted visitors.

"Summer and fall had the highest agritourism visitation rates," said Dawn Thilmany, professor in Colorado State’s Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, who led the study with Martha Sullins from Colorado State University Extension in partnership with Colorado Department of Agriculture’s Markets Division.

"In a state known for its skiing, agricultural activities have shown the potential to provide a real boost to Colorado’s tourism efforts outside of the winter months," Thilmany said. "Increased visitations during these times help fill the underutilized capacity of lodging and service industries."

More than 20 percent of those surveyed took more than three agritourism trips each year, offering great potential for farm and ranch enterprises considering agritourism activities, according to the report.

Tourists from outside Colorado reported spending an average of $860 per trip; in-state tourists reported spending and average of $368, according to the report. Both in-state and out-of-state tourists said they would spend more during their next trip to Colorado ($450 for state residents; $1,023 for out-of-state tourists). Among the more frequent agritourism travelers, about 56 percent were Colorado residents.

A next step in the study is to look more closely at the total contribution of this sector to Colorado’s tourism industry and total economy.

"We found there is sufficient interest in agritourism in Colorado to warrant active joint planning by communities and the agritourism enterprises they support," Thilmany said, offering as an example a joint-marketing plan of Grand Junction’s wine country. "Many regions of Colorado already see significant amounts of visitors to farm- and ranch-based diversions. Through coordinated marketing efforts, these regions can continue to capitalize on agritourism activities."

Colorado State University will partner with the Colorado Department of Agriculture, the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board and the Colorado Tourism Office to host a Culinary and Agritourism Mini Conference as part of the Governor’s 2007 Colorado Tourism Conference this fall from Oct. 10-12.

The registration fee is $135 for Tuesday night and Wednesday or $220 for the mini-conference and the entire Governor’s Tourism Conference. Visit to register.