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Washington, Colorado Deny Pot Tourism Exists

Despite jumps in hotel and flight bookings during Hempfest and the Cannabis Cup, state officials have claimed that visitors aren't coming for the pot.

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By Bryan Le

08/14/14

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Despite Seattle's Hempfest, which can attract up to a quarter million people, and Colorado's 4/20 Cannabis Cup in 2014, officials from both cities have said that legalization hasn't brought in pot tourists.

Contrary to such pronouncements, however, travel websites have claimed that both states have seen an uptick in visitors since choosing to legalize marijuana.

“We've seen that searches for both destinations have spiked dramatically,” said Taylor Cole, PR representative for Hotels.com.

Every year, Hotels.com has seen a 73% boost in traffic for tourists shopping for Denver hotels during the 4/20 event season. As for Seattle, there was a 68% increase in people searching for rooms there during the first month of legal weed sales in the state.

But if pot tourism does exist, regardless of what officials say, there is a clear winner for toking travelers. “Our search data does show that Denver and Colorado have seen more significant search increases in the first seven months of the year,” Cole said.

While Colorado had a six month head start on establishing marijuana, Virginia Nicholson of Hopper.com said that Washington fell behind because of a "recreational weed shortage." Only 79 dispensaries out of the 2,600 that applied were approved to start growing.

Despite this, state officials continue to deny that legal marijuana is having any effect on tourism. “It’s interesting to me, we’ve had fairly low amounts of consumer interest through our visitor information channels, our visitor centers and phones, even as retail sales opened here last month,” said David Blandford, spokesman for Visit Seattle.

“We're not Amsterdam,” said Deborah Park of Visit Denver. “When people come into the city, they will go to a recreational marijuana location. But it’s like shopping—one of those things they do while they’re here. They’re not making their trip around it.”

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