Thanks to a grant from the Colorado Tourism Office, visitors to Montezuma County may get a podcast tour guide when they explore archaeological sites next year.
The Mesa Verde Country Visitor Information Bureau received $25,000 through a marketing matching grant program on Dec. 8. Kelly Kirkpatrick, director of tourism, plans to use the money to create podcasts that help visitors learn about the area’s rich archaeological history.
She’s calling her project a “Trail of the Ancients audio driving tour.” It will consist of up to four hourlong podcasts that guide tourists through archaeological landmarks like Mesa Verde and Hovenweep while providing information from Native and Western perspectives about the ancient dwellings. The podcast tours will cover a loop including Sand Canyon, Hovenweep, Lowry and other historical sites, as well as Mesa Verde National Park. They will be available for download on the Mesa Verde Country website.
“People tend to go to Mesa Verde, and they spend a day, and then they move on in their road trip,” Kirkpatrick said. “If we can encourage them to stay longer by understanding all the other resources and attractions that we have available, we could get them to stay two or three days.”
The matching market grant was one of about 30 given to not-for-profit and governmental organizations across Colorado. It was the first such grant for Mesa Verde Country, although Kirkpatrick applied for one last year to help with centennial events.
According to a news release, the state tourism office gave $600,000 in grant money this year, about $100,000 more than last year, through a grant program that was created “for the purpose of promoting the state or a region as a tourism destination.” Mesa Verde is already a tourist destination – it reported a record 593,000 visits this year – but other ruins, museums and archaeological sites are overlooked.
Guided tours, though, are scarce, and most of Montezuma County’s historical landmarks also have no Wi-Fi or cell phone service, which makes it hard for visitors to find information. Kirkpatrick hopes that the podcast guides, which can be downloaded before visitors arrive, will attract new tourists and enhance their visit.
In keeping with the purpose of the tourism grant, she hopes the Trail of the Ancients tour will reach a national, and even international, audience. Kirkpatrick hopes to make them available on the Mesa Verde Country website by the end of May.
“We are a historic and cultural destination, and we’re really very unique in the state of Colorado for that reason,” Kirkpatrick said. “Everyone has history, but ours is really ancient history.”