Friday, October 16, 2009

Sun Valley area needs to take its own side in the fight for visitors

Some bright spots are starting to pop up on the economic horizon.

First, a new Adversity Index from Moody's and MSNBC shows Idaho and a few other states "in recovery" from the recession. Even though Idahoans justifiably may wonder why down now looks like up to the bean counters, it's good news.

Another bright spot is this week's announcement that that Sun Valley Resort is installing a terrain park on Dollar Mountain and is looking at installing a half-pipe there as well.

Along with the half-pipe on Baldy and a new gondola that will make it easier and friendlier to navigate, the terrain park will fatten the area's quiver of attractions.

It will make a lot of kids and parents very, very happy and make it easier for them to return here again and again. It will fill a void that left parents planning a family vacation no choice but to travel to an area with a terrain park to please the kids.

That Sun Valley Resort is investing in the area despite the deep recession is heartening. Its moves toward a ski-in ski-out hotel at River Run are steps in the right direction as well.

The new snow elements will create better chemistry for the valley if they're combined with a new airport and more luxurious hotels.

Are the new elements too little, too late? While the valley lives and breathes recreation, it's never too late. That said, improved recreation, lodging and transportation will need a lot of "Hey, look at us" marketing to succeed.

The area's marketing is anemic and needs a huge transfusion of the same thing it takes to build amenities—money.

It's all well and good to build it and hope visitors will come—but that rarely works, especially in a day and age when competition for people's attention grows exponentially with each day that passes.

When Averell Harriman and the Union Pacific Railroad built Sun Valley, they poured a lot of money and energy into making the name Sun Valley synonymous with skiing and glamour. They did it through marketing—the same kind of marketing that made trademarked names like Coca-Cola and Pepsi the go-to brands for cola drinks, that made Kleenex and Xerox names for paper tissues and copiers.

Not only does Sun Valley Resort need to expand marketing, the cities of Sun Valley and Ketchum need to get off their local option tax laurels, amend and revise their budgets, and make the acronym LOT mean a lot of money for marketing.

The recession has made marketing an emergency and puny will only beget puny.

Advertising today is as cheap as it may ever be. The area needs to boost marketing and take its own side in the competitive fight for visitors.

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