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'Religion capital' blessed with tourists

Posted: Friday, May 26, 2000

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) -- As the headquarters of some 80 religious organizations, Colorado Springs is attracting an increasing numbers of visitors who spend millions of dollars to attend spiritual conferences and seminars.

''It's growing like wildfire,'' said Kathy Reak, national sales manager for the city's Convention and Visitors Bureau. ''It's a market we are really going after because of the number of headquarters ... here.''

Last year, religious visitors outnumbered corporate visitors, accounting for about 30 percent of hotel nights booked by the bureau compared with 21 percent by corporations.

This year, Reak predicts religious visitors will account for 53 percent of hotel rooms booked by the bureau and will spend $173 million overall.

Competition for religious visitors is strong because the city usually has more rooms than visitors.

Hotel occupancy averaged 65 percent of the 12,500 room nights last year, so many hotel managers offer discounts to religious groups.

Colorado Springs is sometimes called ''the Vatican of evangelical Christianity.'' Focus on the Family, a broadcast ministry headed by James Dobson, is the largest religious group to call the city home.

Last year, those attending Focus on the Family conferences and seminars accounted for about 3,000 room rentals, Paul Hetrick, a ministry spokesman said. In addition, he said some 225,000 other tourists visit the ministry each year.

Other locally based religious groups range from Rock the Nations ministry, expecting up to 3,000 visitors for a July meeting, to the Interna-tional Center for Biblical Counseling, which offers Bible-based counseling to about 100 couples each year.



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