Sun Valley joins world-wide marketing
Rocky Mountain International holds local ‘roundup’
By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer
Idaho was marketed to the world in Sun Valley last week.
Rocky Mountain International (RMI), a marketing group that
works for Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota, convened at Sun Valley’s
Elkhorn Resort for an annual "roundup" where foreign tour
operators meet with service providers from the four states.
Valley-Ketchum chamber marketing director, spent two days talking with
various tour operators from Europe. Express photo by Greg Stahl
The five-day event, which ended Sunday, gave Sun Valley
the opportunity to flaunt the region’s attractions for international
tour operators, who might be interested in bringing international business
Each year, the "roundup" is held in a different
The idea, explained Idaho Department of Commerce tourism
development specialist Karen Ballard, is for service providers in all four
states to sell their products to tour operators in foreign countries. RMI,
which has offices in several foreign countries, also markets its member
"We all market ourselves together," Ballard
Idaho has been a member of the organization for seven
years. The state’s current share of the RMI Budget is $166,000.
Last week, about 200 people—comprised of 27
international tour operators, six international journalists and about 70
service suppliers—attended the "roundup."
"It’s just great, great, great exposure,"
Elkhorn marketing director Hollie Hunter said during an event lunch.
Ballard said foreign tourists are desirable because they
tend to stay longer and spend about five times as much money as domestic
Ballard’s associate, Carl Wilgus, agreed.
"They stay longer; they spend more money; they have
more economic impact per unit than any other visitor," said Wilgus,
who is the Department of Commerce’s tourism administrator.
About 70 percent of the world’s skiers are from outside
the United States, pointed out Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber of Commerce
executive director Carol Waller. However, only about 3 percent of Sun
Valley’s winter business is from international markets.
As a comparison, she said, international visitors at
Wyoming’s Jackson Hole amount to 15 percent of the resort’s business.
A substantial part of the week-long event included a
two-day "marketplace," in which service providers—such as
hotels, guide services and resorts—had opportunities to meet with tour
operators from throughout Europe. Elkhorn Resort’s conference facilities
were packed with folding tables and people scrambling to strike deals with
international tour operators.
Carrie Schiller-Westergard, Sun Valley-Ketchum chamber
marketing director, spent two days talking with various tour operators
One she spent a significant amount of time with was David
Ovendale, North America manager of Crystal Holidays, a tour operator
catering to skiers who live in the United Kingdom.
Crystal Holidays, Ovendale said in an interview, sells
skiing holidays exclusively. It was his job to talk with representatives
for Sun Valley, and Montana’s Big Mountain and Big Sky resorts during
the "marketplace" discussions.
He said Sun Valley has a great mountain and great appres
ski opportunities, but lacks easy air access.
"The mountain’s got potential. You’ve got the
terrain. It (his company’s decision) will ultimately hinge on
accessibility. The crux of the issue is flying," he said.
Crystal Holidays brings 10,000 skiers to the United States
each year, Ovendale said. The company’s next largest competitor brings
Idaho hosts about 271,300 international visitors annually,
resulting in an $83.1 million boost to the tourism industry, RMI’s
annual marketing report states.
In the past eight years, international visits to Idaho
have increased from 1 percent of the state’s total visits to 5 percent.
"It’s been a terrific 10 years [since RMI first
formed]," wrote RMI president Chuck Box in the report. Growth has
more than tripled. The world is getting smaller. Our unique and beautiful
region continues to be on the cutting edge of international tourism
marketing, and we expect that growth to continue."