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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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Wednesday — February 25, 2004


Economy improving, Chamber director says

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 & Visitors Bureau.

"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 fiscal year.

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 43 percent.

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.


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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.