Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Muster the dollars; make the plan

The ski industry is competitive, and in the battle for skier dollars, the Sun Valley area is losing. Figures for the winter season just ended showed no growth for the past decade, while Jackson Hole, Wyo., enjoyed a record number of skier visits.
    Last week, Myles Rademan, a marketing consultant and spokesperson for Park City, Utah, pointed out the same uncomfortable fact in an address at an Idaho Economic Development Association conference in Sun Valley.
    “We [in Park City] love it when Ketchum/Sun Valley doesn’t advertise,” Rademan said. “That means we’re cleaning your clock.”
    The Sun Valley area has a habit of relying on its long history of famous people who have chosen to vacation or live here to draw more visitors to the area. We would love to think that history is enough to guarantee our success, but Rademan thinks otherwise. “The past is not the future,” he said. “If you rest on your laurels, your laurels are in the wrong place.”
    Ironically, Averill Harriman and the Union Pacific Railroad built the resort in Sun Valley as a means of marketing train travel. This area and the resort have natural beauty and recreational facilities that are second to none, but marketing too often relies on the flawed concept: “If we build it, they will come.”
    It’s a good line for a baseball movie, but not very effective as an advertising strategy, especially up against Utah’s “The Greatest Snow on Earth,” especially when that message plays for enormous Super Bowl audiences.
    The Sun Valley area currently cannot muster marketing dollars at the same level as Utah or Colorado. Locally, marketing has moved away from the default strategy of “let Sun Valley Resort do it,” although funding for publicly funded efforts has too often been sidetracked by politics and infighting. Even when guests do find the area, local residents sometimes seem ambiguous about whether they are really welcome or whether they are just a bother.
    Focusing on what cannot be done takes away from what can and should be done.
    Rademan described how his communities came together behind leadership training, public investments and collaborative community events to grow and promote the entire Park City area. It’s a message our politically and economically fractious valley should take to heart.
    It’s time for all the players—cities, businesses, community groups, community leaders—to sit down together and hammer out a consistent, focused, long-term effort with the single goal of bringing new visitors here and making sure they want to come back.

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