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Wednesday, May 19, 2004


Chamber reports ‘solid winter season’

SolFest to be replaced

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 working.

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, she said.

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."


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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.