economy could be hit
Express Staff Writer
East Coast tragedies at the hands of terrorists will negatively affect
what has been perceived to be a marginal winter tourist season in the Wood
River Valley, tourism experts said.
slipping economy, the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics and terrorist
activity have combined this fall to prompt Idaho and local tourism experts
to forecast a borderline fall and winter season.
have to face it. Our country was basically shut down for several days last
week," said Georgia Smith, Idaho Department of Commerce information
officer. "There’s a lot that just came to a standstill. We may
never know what the impact will be. We may never know the depth of the
know that your area will take a hit."
the state’s tourism division is already taking a look at the state’s
overall marketing strategy to see if strategies "can or should"
In the wake
of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, tourism and convention cancellations
have hit Sun Valley and other parts of the state, Smith said.
scarcity of air traffic has left the Boise Airport approximately $200,000
short of expected operating revenue. The additional time new airline
security requirements has added to travel time has made driving about as
fast for trips within southern Idaho and to Salt Lake City, further
reducing air traffic activity.
hotels are showing up to 20 percent higher vacancy rates, and the rental
car business has fallen off as well.
think it’s too early to tell, but let’s face it. It can’t be
good," Sun Valley Co. General Manager Wally Huffman said.
As one of
the Wood River Valley’s biggest economic engines, Sun Valley’s ability
to attract clientele affects other area businesses. In fact, a report
released last spring confirmed that one third of Blaine County’s economy
is either directly or indirectly fueled by tourism.
our basic sense of well-being is going to get challenged some, and that’s
a terrible thing," Huffman said. "It’s going to hit right at
the heart of our personality as a culture."
that personality is vacation and recreation time.
think there is an expectation that there will be a downturn in people
traveling," Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber of Commerce Executive Director
Carol Waller said. "It’ll make it even dicier, because you’ve got
this (terrorist) situation on top of an already slow economy. It’s going
to affect travel."
said Sun Valley’s December and January advanced reservations were
already down—probably because of the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics—before
last week’s East Coast disasters. February and March reservations were
holding an even keel compared with recent years.
a little too early to assess possible affects the events this week might
have on our long-term business, but it’s already affected our short-term
business," he said.
weekend, several hundred of Sun Valley Co.’s room nights were canceled
because of travel difficulties and concerns.
broader picture—if the economy tanks even further, it’s certainly
going to affect what goes on here," Waller said. "Usually what
happens in the country eventually happens in Sun Valley, even if it takes
a while for it to catch up."
tourism season isn’t the only season that could take a hit this year.
historically a period of economic doldrums in Sun Valley, has been picking
up in recent years due to increased marketing and the addition of several
Trailing of the Sheep Festival, scheduled for Oct. 12 - 14, typically
draws about 4,000 tourists to the valley, Waller said. The Sun Valley Jazz
Festival, scheduled for Oct. 17 - 21, typically draws 7,500.
hesitated to predict how last week’s tragedies might affect Sun Valley’s
fall events. At least half of those who attend the events usually drive
here, she said.
Sun Valley and other typical autumn tourist destinations in Idaho may
experience an increase in the number of people driving.
Idaho typically logs about 989,600 automobile travel parties, Smith said.
Annually, Central Idaho logs 4.6 million automobile travel parties.
numbers that may increase this fall and this year, she said.
the experts aren’t making rosy predictions.
want to let people know that Sun Valley is open for business, but you don’t
want to play too much on what happened last Tuesday," Waller said.
"But I think they will be afraid to travel right now."