Friday, November 16, 2012

Needed: Events czar

People with a stake in the ongoing viability of the Sun Valley area shouldn’t waste much time deploring the defeat of public minimum revenue guarantees for airlines. There’s too much to do and too few people to do it.

The area has a big task ahead in trying to figure out how to bump up winter business. Clearly, it needs more than marketing.

Winter is in desperate need of an Events Czar with a budget to coordinate and advertise events. In short, winter needs more effective leadership.

Summer is an events horn of plenty, with something going on nearly every weekend. Summer has adequate commercial airline service and easy road travel to connect people with it. Winter business outside of holiday weeks is harder to come by because travel by families is limited by school schedules and is more concentrated on weekends. Air service is more limited.

Lots of events are on deck for the coming winter season, but specific packaging of groups of events and out-of-area advertising for them is limited or non-existent.

With local economic leadership fragmented, businesses will have difficulty bumping up the credit card harvest unless that changes. There’s no central organization tasked to align events, package and market them.

The Sun Valley Marketing Alliance is directed by the cities of Ketchum and Sun Valley and tasked to focus on generalized out-of-area marketing and visitor information. These are important tasks, but in the long run they won’t be enough to stoke winter business.

Warming up the winter will take a new concentration on harnessing the power of local groups and individuals committed to making things happen in the worlds of dining, arts, recreation and humanities.

It’s time to harness together public marketing with privately planned and organized events. Public money should be allocated to pull in visitors for music and theater weekends and various small festivals—all of which blend beautifully with the area’s outdoor attractions.

It’s been demonstrated over and over again that with focus and consistency, small festivals can become big festivals. That needs to happen in the winter as well as in the summer and fall.

One of the joys of visiting the area in any season is that penultimate daylight pursuits may be followed by peak indoor experiences as well. That’s too often accidental when it should be by design.

Days on the winter trails should be followed by events like dine-arounds, coffee or cocktail festivals, seminars by smart people on big topics, cool music, hot dancing, film explorations and live performances.

Looking at winter’s calendar, the Sun Valley area doesn’t lack options. It lacks coordination and promotion.

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