A woman rolls a joint while attending the Colorado 420 Rally at Civic Center Park in Denver on April 20, 2014. (Helen H. Richardson, Denver Post file)

Searches for Denver rooms around 4/20 holiday lighting up Hotels.com

Online searches for Denver hotel rooms around the marijuana celebration date of April 20 are soaring, according to data from booking website Hotels.com.

Search totals also spiked last April, during the first year of legal retail weed in Colorado.

Hotels.com said the numbers suggest that the oft-asked question — does legal marijuana generate an increase in tourism? — has been answered affirmatively.

Marijuana enthusiasts hold so-called 4/20 rallies each spring that attract thousands of publicly smoking participants, even though Colorado’s statute prohibits public consumption.

The website operator said searches for Denver bookings during April 17-20 are up 60 percent over the same period in 2014. Searches last April had soared 73 percent compared with the same period in 2013, before retail marijuana sales were legal.

A Hotels.com spokeswoman declined to disclose the number of searches used in calculating the percentage increases.

Hotels.com said similar increases are being seen in Washington, where recreational sales became legal in July. In Oregon, where legal sales will begin July 1, booking searches are up 25 percent for travel during the first 90 days of legalization.

Hotel boycott: Pot group calls for Holiday Inn boycott after one hotel files anti-cannabis suit

Deborah Park, a spokeswoman for Visit Denver, the city’s convention and visitors bureau, noted that the Hotels.com report analyzes only online searches, not bookings for hotel rooms.

Park said Denver’s lodging tax collections in 2014 were a record $19.6 million, up 21 percent from 2013. She said hotel bookings were driven by increases in convention delegates, business travelers and ski tourists.

In addition to its data on 4/20 hotel searches, Hotels.com reported that Denver’s ranking as a travel destination is rising. The city in 2014 was the 14th-most-popular domestic destination, up from 15th in 2013 and 19th in 2012.

Steve Raabe: 303-954-1948, sraabe@denverpost.com or twitter.com/steveraabedp

This story was first published on DenverPost.com