Wednesday, January 19, 2011

How will the resort area be promoted now?

Sun Valley Marketing Alliance to reveal its strategy tomorrow

Express Staff Writer

The cities of Ketchum, center-right, and Sun Valley, center, seen here Tuesday from the flanks of Bald Mountain, are collaborating on a plan to better market the resort area of the northern Wood River Valley. Photo by Willy Cook

The Sun Valley Marketing Alliance is set to reveal its fresh advertising strategy for increasing visitorship in the tourism-based northern Wood River Valley. The alliance will present its plan, put together with the help of San Francisco-based marketing firm Eleven, tomorrow, Jan. 20, at 4 p.m. in Sun Valley City Hall.

Until this year, the cities of Ketchum and Sun Valley paid the Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber & Visitors Bureau to promote the resort area, but they began a dramatic shift in early 2010 to create a new organization that would take the chamber's place. And the cities would also supply more funding.

"You guys have worked very hard, but it isn't working," Ketchum Mayor Randy Hall told chamber representatives who filled the Ketchum City Council chambers at a June 21 meeting.

Despite the cities' assertions that a new marketing board is needed, funding wasn't provided to the alliance until Dec. 16, when each city approved $400,000 for the first year. The alliance includes both the marketing board and restructured chamber and visitors bureau.

Under the alliance's contract with the cities, it agreed to give quarterly reports to both cities, and the deadline for presenting its marketing plan is Jan. 20. The cities are paying not only for the alliance's service as a marketer, but to run the visitor center, plan local events and ensure customer satisfaction.

The contract also ensures that the cities can keep a close eye on their $400,000 investments. The alliance is required to provide detailed quarterly reports showing spending within each of its four service areas. It must also demonstrate quarterly that it's accomplishing measurable marketing goals. These metrics should be established in its marketing plan.

The contract allows the cities to "terminate" the partnership "with or without cause," and they wouldn't be responsible for any further payments even if they hadn't handed over their last quarterly installment.

The marketing shift started with a presentation by Sun Valley City Councilman Bob Youngman in early 2010 demonstrating that the tourist economies of Sun Valley and Ketchum began a downward spiral long before the recession. Youngman demonstrated that tourism-related tax revenues have dipped and lag far behind those of other mountain resorts.

Since then, the cities have been dead set on drawing more visitors to the area. They assembled a committee to look into the problem and suggest a solution, which was to drop the Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber & Visitors Bureau as area marketer and create a marketing board to be given the chamber's funding. Chamber Executive Director Carol Waller resigned in August as the chamber prepared for cutbacks. Mere weeks later, the chamber merged with the new marketing board to form the Sun Valley Marketing Alliance.

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