SLV Conference: 2017 Highlights Branding
By Kathy Bedell © Saguache Today
The San Luis Valley Tourism Association (SLVTA) held its annual conference in Alamosa at Adams State University on February 21. Saguache Today was there to find out what’s new in the valley and also spread the good news about what’s happening in Saguache Today.
“A rising tide lifts all boats,” was one of the primary themes among all the various agencies and tourist-related businesses represented at the annual conference. A spirit of cooperation, combined with the competition was encouraged, resulting in a relatively new buzz word for many rural Colorado communities: “coopetition.”
The SLVTA is comprised of six counties: Saguache, Alamosa, Rio Grande, Conejos, Costilla, and Mineral. Each area has wonderful, unique things to offer, from towering mountain ranges, and flat prairies, to hot springs spas and rough and tumble rodeos. The regions rich heritage is celebrated with the renovation of historic buildings and tourist trains, to new cultural-agriculture projects which are keeping generations tethered together through community gardens and eclectic music venues.
The area represented by this tourism association is big and wide spread. But, as attendees learned during a lighter moment in the conference, the SLV is also so tightly knit together, that it was discovered that the Great Sand Dunes Ranger’s father/physician delivered the mayor of Antonito’s mother-in-law!
And so, in that spirit of coopetition about 60 key players and SLV partners came together for a catch up, of sorts at the annual conference. Saguache Today will be bringing readers those updates in preparation for the summer tourist season. It’s good to know what’s happening whether it’s the new community garden in Conejos County or when the theater season kicks off in Creede.
So, read on, and stay tuned to find out what’s happening in the valley and what the future of tourism looks like.
The San Luis Valley Tourism Association drew a good crowd during their annual conference last February. The organization comprises of representatives from six counties who are all part of tourism in the SLV. Photo: Saguache Today/Kathy Bedell
SLVTA Highlights “Keep It Cool” Campaign
Jay Young with the San Luis Valley Tourism Association (SLVTA) and owner of Colorado Gators Reptile Park in Mosca, kicked off the annual conference with an overview of the tourism association’s 2017 activities and marketing efforts. Since the group is relatively new, much of the focus in 2017 was on branding and marketing strategies.
Last year, explained Young, the SLVTA put into play the monies secured from a Colorado Tourism Office (CTO) grant. A majority of those funds went into the “Keep it Cool” Campaign, which included a SLVTA map and brochure. Over 100,000 were printed and placed in the Colorado welcome centers, as well as distributed in the Grand Canyon corridor, encouraging Arizona residents to come up out of the summer heat. Part of those CTO monies also helped to purchase two billboards in Denver from April – August 2017, during the warmer months. Many people mentioned seeing the signs, reported Young. The SLVTA also purchased print ads in Discover Taos and Colorado.com magazines. The 2017 “Keep It Cool” campaign was touted a success bringing more people into the valley to visit.
Looking ahead into 2018, while the CTO grant funds will not be available for this year’s budget, the SLVTA’s marketing efforts are still keenly focused, just on a smaller scale to stay in line with the budget. The “Keep It Cool” campaign continues offering visitors a reprieve from warmer temperatures. All in attendance at the conference predicted a busier summer season for 2018. Is your business ready?
Readers can stay connected to the Visit San Luis Valley Facebook page, which is the most up-to-date communication method and maintained by SLVTA board member, the fabulous Kat Hazleton Olance who is also the president of the San Luis Valley Museum Association.
Later in the conference, the six counties that represent the SLVTA were given an opportunity to update attendees about what is happening in their areas and what’s on the horizon for 2018. Since each report is rather detailed, we’ll be breaking it up a bit at a time through the spring season. For today’s closing report, Saguache Today brings you the latest from the Gator Park!
The new Gator Lagoon is complete at the Colorado Gator and Reptile Park located in Mosca off Highway 17 in the beautiful San Luis Valley.
Colorado Gators Reptile Park – is one of the Valley’s most unique attractions! The Park originally began in 1977 as a fish farm, using geothermal water to grow tilapia for human consumption. All of the tilapia are sold live, but of course not all of the fish live to go to market; so in 1987 the owners purchased 100 baby alligators to eat the dead fish. Soon people found out about the alligators and wanted to see them so in 1990 Colorado Gators opened to the public. Before long people were dropping off their unwanted/illegal pet alligators. Today Colorado Gators is an alligator and reptile rescue, home to 300 alligators, crocodiles, caiman, and hundreds of other reptiles including giant pythons, rattlesnakes, huge lizards, turtles and tortoises, and so much more!
Colorado Gators Reptile Park is located in the heart of the SLV and is “the only high-altitude alligator farm,” now a full blown tourist attraction. The idea stemmed from convenience, really, as the site was originally a fish farm and the best way to dispose of the remains of that venture were gators. Today they also offer classes in gator wresting. Now, that’s got to be on somebody’s birthday wish list!
And if you’re looking for something a bit more subdued but that will capture the attention of your friends and followers, then remember, every visitor to Colorado Gators has the opportunity to meet, pet, hold, and take pictures with a little alligator! For $2 visitors can buy a bucket of “Gator Chow” to feed the alligators, and occasionally there will be dead fish available to feed to the alligators as well! The park also has several large African Sulcata tortoises that wander freely throughout their own sections of the tour. Feel free to pet these tortoises, but watch your step, there are several low “tortoise fences” to keep each tortoise in his or her section.
Mr. Bo Mangles is one of 5 albino alligators on display at Colorado Gators. There are only about 50 albino alligators in the world. Photo: Colorado Gators Reptile Park.
Two of their most popular exhibits are the albino alligators, including Mr. Bo Mangles, and Morris the Hollywood alligator from “Happy Gilmore.” Some of the other reptiles you can see at Colorado Gators Reptile Park are: fearsome Nile crocodiles, Burmese pythons, a 17′ reticulated python, anacondas, red tail boas, 3 species of rattlesnakes, monitor lizards, tegus, geckos, iguanas, box turtles, snapping turtles, and caiman.
Who knew, a zoo, right in the middle of the San Luis Valley?! For more information visit: Colorado Gators. The Colorado Gators Reptile Park is located at 9162 CR 9 N Mosca, CO 81146. Phone: (719) 378-2612 Connect with them on Facebook
That’s all for the first report from the SLVTA Annual Conference. Stay tuned for more updates and feel free to send Saguache Today your news. ST primarily focuses on things happening in Saguache and Saguache County, but we’ll do our best to help spread the word about things happening throughout the valley. You can email documents, photos and video to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kathy Bedell is a Colorado journalist who owns The Great Pumpkin, LLC, a digital media company located in Leadville, Colorado. She publishes two online news sites: Leadville Today and Saguache Today.