Best Practices in PR: Aurora’s Role in Tourism and Placemaking

    By Mallory Feeney, PRSA Colorado Member

    When you think of tourism in Colorado, the city of Aurora may not be the first city that comes to mind. And yet, promoting the city as a destination has come a long way from the early 60s when U.S. Route 40 — known as Colfax — was established; literally and figuratively putting Aurora on the map.

    Today, Aurora is home to Colorado’s largest resort and convention center, Gaylord Rockies, which will attract thousands of visitors annually and change the landscape of Colorado’s travel and tourism industry. The city’s attributes include its cultural art district, outdoor space and family-friendly shopping and dining. Some of Colfax’s historic spots have even become bucket-list attractions for those who want to explore the city known as the “Gateway to the Rockies.”

    As Marketing Coordinator for Visit Aurora, the state’s official Convention and Visitors Bureau, I’ve learned that promoting Aurora is not just about branding and thoughtful storytelling to lure tourists to a new destination, it’s about creating a strategic narrative that reminds Coloradans that there are key benefits to living in the city.

    “Tourism in Aurora has evolved,” says Randi Morritt, director of communications for Visit Aurora. “Today’s travelers are searching for authenticity. They want to experience a destination through the eyes of a local, and that perspective is key to how we tell our story to each of our audiences.”

    For those who may be new to Aurora, Visit Aurora creates itinerary guides, insider-tip blog posts, feature stories and spotlight-attraction videos to drive its narrative. At the same time, informing residents about Aurora’s city-wide benefits involves messaging of a different kind. Through “placemaking,” or capitalizing on local community assets to create public spaces that promote health and well-being, Visit Aurora focuses its outreach efforts on public education.

    For example, tourism is credited with helping influence decision making. From light rail infrastructure updates to entrepreneur outreach to Fitzsimons Redevelopment promotion, the public education strategy not only provides context to a growing community, it strengthens the reputation of the city among those who work and live there.

    Visit Aurora also takes advantage of its community partnership strategy to create strong tourist activity.

    “Showcasing the destination would be nearly impossible without the strong relationships we have with our partners,” says Morritt. “When the community comes together to share the destination story, it not only creates a better experience for the visitor, but it also helps develop a sense of pride for the people who live there. It’s a win-win for visitors and residents alike.”


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