In a recent resident sentiment survey by Visit Longmont, 40% of responders saw tourism in Longmont positively — but over half were unsure what to think of tourism.
“That’s because overall people never think of Longmont as a tourism destination,” said Kimberlee McKee, executive director of the Longmont Downtown Development Authority and vice president on the Visit Longmont board. “They think, are tourists coming here? It feels like something new … I think we’re just starting to educate the community about the benefits of tourism and that yes, indeed, people do stay here, and that tourism is a generator.”
With an 84-room boutique hotel proposed for downtown Longmont getting initial approval from city council last month, community questions have arisen about whether the city is in the right position to pursue this development — and offer $4.3 million in public incentives to bring it here.
McKee explained that hotels currently operating in Longmont are considered by tourism industry standards as “limited stay” and “extended stay.” The Hilton Garden Inn has a full service restaurant, making it a full service hotel, but the city lacks a boutique hotel and really any lodging in the downtown area.
McKee said large employers — considering hosting more meetings or gatherings — have indicated that they need a boutique-style hotel because that’s what their clients are used to. The St. Vrain, a wedding venue just around the corner from the proposed hotel, often sees wedding parties and their guests staying out of town because of that desire for a boutique option, she added.
“It’s a lodging option that we don’t offer here today in Longmont, so we see people go to Boulder or go to other communities if that’s the type of lodging that they’re looking for,” McKee said. “We certainly would like to keep those dollars in Longmont.”
Through October, Longmont has seen a year-to-date occupancy rate of 68.9%, according to the Rocky Mountain Lodging Report. For comparison, Denver has a 2022 year-to-date occupancy rate of 70.4% while statewide occupancy has averaged 67.9% to date.
Longmont businesses have reported seeing more travelers and tourists than ever, according to McKee. She said many are on their way to Rocky Mountain National Park and stop by to have lunch.
“We’d love for those folks to maybe consider Longmont as opposed to just stopping by if they’re driving through,” she said. “That this could really be the base camp to their Colorado adventure.”
McKee highlighted the city’s relative proximity to Fort Collins, Denver, Boulder, Rocky Mountain National Park and ski resorts along with Longmont’s own unique destinations and recreation opportunities.
According to the 2021 Travel USA Visitor Profile commissioned by the Colorado Tourism Office, the average per person expenditure on an overnight trip in Colorado was $469, with business visitors spending even more at an average of $631 a night.
“It’s great to have outside wallets spend their money in your community,” McKee said. “As they’re passing through, supporting all your businesses and supporting those things, those tax dollars are used to increase the quality of life for our residents in our community. Having those outside dollars that are invested is really important to the priorities that we have through the community.”
As Longmont grows its tourism industry, McKee said she wants to encourage positive and sustainable growth while being mindful about how it affects the community. Conversations with the community about tourism are still just starting.
“A lot of it is in the messaging of how we are talking about our city and how we are looking for tourists or events or things that we bring to Longmont, making sure that they stay consistent with the strengths of our community today,” McKee said.