Economy improving, Chamber
By GREGORY FOLEY
Express Staff Writer
The Sun Valley-area tourist
economy is showing signs of improvement, despite a slip in lodging
occupancies in late 2003.
That was the theme of a
presentation issued Tuesday, Feb. 17, to the Ketchum City Council by
Carol Waller, executive director of the Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber &
"It’s actually been a good
season," Waller said. "I think we’re starting to see the economy turn
around a little bit."
Waller made the comments during a
report on Chamber activities during the first quarter of the 2003-2004
She said the most positive signs
pointing to a recovery in the local economy are increases in local
option tax revenues in Ketchum and Sun Valley.
"We were certainly helped by a
very, very strong holiday season," Waller told council members.
Indeed, LOT revenues for the
three-month period were up 3 percent in Ketchum compared to the same
period during the previous year. At the same time, LOT revenues were up
5 percent in Sun Valley.
Revenues in all categories of LOTs
surged during the quarter, except those from liquor sales in Ketchum,
which dropped a precipitous 25 percent.
Despite the positive trends in LOT
revenues, lodging occupancies in the Ketchum-Sun Valley area declined
during the quarter, compared to last year. Occupancies of hotel rooms
and vacation rentals were down 8 percent in December, from 51 percent to
Waller said Horizon Air flight
services to the Wood River Valley backed by revenue guarantees from Sun
Valley Co. saw mixed results during the early winter.
Sun Valley Co. is currently
negotiating with Horizon to guarantee that direct flights between Hailey
and two California cities—Los Angeles and Oakland—operate during the
coming summer, she noted.
"They are the only entity to step
up to the plate to provide the minimum revenue guarantee."
It is likely, Waller said, that
the flights will be discontinued during the spring off-season. Pursuant
to the terms of a contract between Horizon and Sun Valley Co., service
for both flights is scheduled to terminate on March 28.
Waller said several special events
created or sponsored by the Chamber have helped in drawing tourists to
the Wood River Valley. She noted that the organization this year will
consider developing a Ketchum-area festival dedicated to honoring famed
novelist Ernest Hemingway.
Councilwoman Terry Tracy said she
does not want Ketchum to always emulate other resort cities—many of
which derive success from special events—but would like to see the
Chamber establish more events to attract tourists.