Growing Economic Windfall of Colorado Agritourism Detailed in Colorado State University Research

Among the fall corn mazes, farmers’ markets and winery and brewery visits, 13.2 million tourists experiencing Colorado’s agricultural offerings pumped an estimated $2.2 billion in total economic activity into the state in 2006, according to Colorado State University research.

About $1.26 billion came through direct economic contributions to the agritourism operators and their surrounding lodging, dining and retail businesses. Ancillary business activities to support the tourism sector accounted for almost another $1 billion in economic activity.

Those totals accounted for 14 percent of the total Colorado tourism industry in 2006, according to the research. About $1.7 billion came from out-of-state agritourists; and 56 percent of Colorado’s agritourists in 2006 came from out-of-state. Agritourism created about 14,655 jobs in the state.

Out-of-state agritourists spent an average of $887 per trip (about $157 a day), while in-state agritourists spent an average of $391 (about $113 a day).

"A significant amount of Colorado’s tourism industry is tied to agritourism," said Dawn Thilmany, professor in the Department of Agricultural Resource Economics at Colorado State, who lead the research. "Out-of-state tourists make up the lion’s share of this type of spending, which represents new money into the state’s industries. More importantly, much of this activity is happening in times of the year such as fall, and in rural areas, where new monies can have the most impact."

Top choices for Colorado agritourism activities include on-farm experiences such as camping and picnicking, photography and art, bird and wildlife watching. Culinary- and heritage-oriented activities such as farmers’ markets, food festivals and historical museums/sites, based on the pioneer and ranching history of the West, were also of great interest, according to the report.

According to Colorado State University Extension Specialist Martha Sullins, a co-author on the research, Colorado could bolster its agritourism industry by taking steps to create the impression that Colorado is a "good-value" trip.

"We have the agricultural events and the experiences that people are seeking," Sullins said. "Making sure people know that these experiences are both desirable and affordable could really benefit Colorado’s agritourism industry in the long run."

Also, agritourism in Colorado could benefit from tying more on-farm and on-ranch activities to food-oriented events, improving signage to make travelers more aware of and more directed to agritourism attractions, and adding interpretive educational signage, according to the research.

Other Colorado agritourism resources can be found on the Colorado Department of Agriculture’s Web site at