Friday, July 4, 2014

Destination: Sun Valley

Air Service Board touts increased tourism, advertising success

Express Staff Writer

     For a relatively new organization, the Air Service Board has earned bragging rights. At a regular meeting held in Sun Valley on Wednesday, representatives from Fly Sun Valley Alliance and Visit Sun Valley cited increased enplanements and success in the digital advertising realm.

     Fly Sun Valley Alliance Executive Director Carol Waller ran through the summer flight schedule. A new direct United Airlines flight from Denver had its inaugural flight Wednesday night. United has direct flights from both San Francisco and Denver running daily until Aug. 25, with flights for each route decreasing to five times a week between Aug. 26 and Sept. 23.

     Alaska Airlines offers direct flights daily from Seattle and Los Angeles from mid-June until mid-September, with Seattle flights dropping to three times a week for most of October. Delta Airlines has direct flights from Salt Lake City.

     Waller said airlines serving Sun Valley increased seats by 28 percent last winter and Friedman Memorial Airport saw 16 percent more enplanements as a result. The beginning of the direct San Francisco flight last winter resulted in over 1,000 first-time visitors from the Golden State and $1.3 million in spending from those new vacationers, she said. Waller said airlines will continue to increase the number of seats available.

     “The challenge is to fill those seats,” she said.

     Waller noted a 20 percent decrease in plane ticket costs for average business and leisure seats last winter as well.

     Ketchum Mayor Nina Jonas asked Waller whether there were plans to extend direct flights into East Coast markets, given an increase in advertising success in New York and Chicago. Waller said that they’ll consider adding additional destinations in 2016.

     Fly Sun Valley should receive $1.2 million from a new 1 percent local-option tax to support air service in fiscal year 2015, Waller said. Half the money will go toward air service contracts with United and Alaska airlines. The organization typically splits the expense 50-50 with the Sun Valley Resort.

     Visit Sun Valley President Arlene Schieven reviewed the outcome of the organization’s advertising and marketing efforts over the past year. For fiscal 2015, it has just under $1 million available to spend from the local-option tax. Some of that money, Schieven said, will be carried over from the last fiscal year.

     So far this summer, she said, website visits are up by 40 percent since May 1, with the largest “click-through” increase coming from New York residents. Video ads are outperforming picture ads, which Schieven said motivates the organization to focus heavily on video campaigns in the future.

     Visit Sun Valley spends the bulk of its budget in October and November, with half of that money going toward advertising during those months.

     “People are planning vacations earlier,” Schieven said.

     As far as target markets go, Visit Sun Valley’s spending priority is San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, New York and Denver, in that order.

     Though Schieven said the number of hotel rooms sold in winter 2013 was about the same as those sold during the previous winter, there was a 6.4 percent enplanement increase. Schieven’s presentation attributed these figures to more visitors staying in second homes and with friends or relatives.  

      The next Air Service Board meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 27, at Hailey City Hall from 2-4 p.m.

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