Friday, November 23, 2012

Getting Sun Valley back on skiersí radar

Arlene Schieven is the president and chief marketing officer of the Sun Valley Marketing Alliance.


As we count down to the start of the winter season, we are hopeful that the snow will fall—and that our marketing programs will garner attention and more skiers and boarders will choose Sun Valley as their winter vacation destination.

 Sun Valley has its work cut out for it to get back on the radar of destination skiers. Our research has shown that for those under 55, Sun Valley is virtually non-existent on their consideration list. Importantly, few skiers and boarders even know what Sun Valley has to offer. That is where our opportunity lies. One of the key motivators for many skiers is “to try something new.” We need to provide inspiration to these traveling skiers to showcase Sun Valley as a compelling, interesting and unique destination.

 Visit Sun Valley’s marketing approach to garner the attention of these potential skiers is two-pronged. Part 1 is inspiration—why would someone choose to visit Sun Valley over another destination? Our inspirational campaign focuses on the depth and quality of the Sun Valley experience with an emphasis on: “Terrain and Vert,” “Funky Ski Town,” “Fresh Arts Scene” and “Adventure to Zen.”

 Part 2 is sales, for those who are ready to consider Sun Valley for their trip. This is where we provide the details of booking a trip, with a focus on: “Direct Flights,” “Mountain Conditions,” “Stay and Ski Packages” and “Lodging Offers.”

 Our efforts are divided equally between “inspiration” (demand creation) and “sales” with a focus on skiers in Los Angeles, Seattle and Boise.  We need to create demand and encourage sales in destinations where minimum-revenue guarantees are in place so that the payouts will be as low as possible, leaving more money to be invested in either additional marketing in existing markets or the development of new air markets.

 The biggest challenge facing Sun Valley this year is snow. With a late start to the national season last year, many skiers are taking a “wait and see” approach for this year. They are not willing to commit until they know snow conditions are good. Our campaign is designed to be flexible so that we can change our messaging to take advantage of positive changes in mountain conditions.

 Our biggest opportunity is to acquire new skiers. Sun Valley has a strong, loyal following of repeat skiers, but has been lagging in attracting new skiers and boarders. Our research shows that once we get people here, they become our greatest asset for both repeat visitation and positive word of mouth. Word of mouth remains the No. 1 generator of new business—whether that is through Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram or any of the other social channels that allow people to share their experiences.

The good news is that Sun Valley has an incredible product offering at a great price. Stay-and-ski packages are available from $105 per person, per night. Similarly, although access is challenging for many destinations, it couldn’t be easier for people in Seattle and Los Angeles in the winter. A quick flight from Seattle gets you to Sun Valley in time for a great day on the mountain—and even better, that first day is free when you fly on Alaska Airlines.

 If you would like to learn more about our marketing efforts, please join us on Wednesday, Dec. 5,  at  5 p.m. in The Community Library in Ketchum for our annual General Meeting. You don’t need to be a member to attend and wine and appetizers will be served. We welcome the opportunity to answer your questions and to explore opportunities to work together to increase tourism in the Sun Valley area.

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