Chamber reports ‘solid winter season’
SolFest to be replaced
By GREGORY FOLEY
Express Staff Writer
The Wood River Valley tourist economy
appears to be firmly back on its feet.
That was the message brought to the
Ketchum City Council Monday, May 17 by Carol Waller, executive director of the
Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber & Visitors Bureau.
"The numbers look good," Waller said. "We
had a solid winter season."
In a report on business activity in
Ketchum and Sun Valley from January through March—the core of the 2004 winter
ski season—Waller said a shift in Chamber marketing strategy seems to be
The Chamber last year made a determination
that it would put fewer dollars into paid advertising in magazines and
newspapers and divert the funds into a large-scale direct-mail campaign.
Waller said Monday that the mail campaign
coincided with an overall increase in tourist activity and a corresponding
increase in visits to the Chamber’s Internet site.
During the first three months of 2004,
local option tax revenues were up 7 percent in Sun Valley and 9 percent in
Ketchum, when compared to figures from the same period in 2003. LOT revenues are
considered to be a reliable, albeit broad, indicator of tourist spending.
At the same time, the average lodging
occupancy rate in the resort towns was up approximately 4 percent over the same
period in 2003, she said.
Despite the ongoing rebound in the tourist
sector after a downturn in 2002 and 2003, tourists are not flocking to Ketchum
and Sun Valley as always expected, Waller said.
SolFest, the annual ski- and
snowboard-jumping exhibition on Bald Mountain that is organized by the Chamber,
will be discontinued because of a perceived inadequacy in appeal to travelers,
Waller said the SolFest exhibition is no
longer considered a novelty, largely because other ski areas across the West
have similar events.
"It has become less of a competitive
advantage to have the jump," she said.
Waller said the Chamber will seek to
divert the money used to promote SolFest to develop other on-mountain events and
competitions that might be of more interest to travelers.
The Chamber, Waller said, has also been
forced to cancel plans to establish a festival in Ketchum celebrating the life
and works of acclaimed author Ernest Hemingway. She said the plan "hit a brick
wall" during negotiations with Fashion Licensing, the company that owns the
rights to the Hemingway name.
"It was just a financial proposal we felt
we couldn’t do."