For the week of July 15 thru July 21, 1998  


Marketing crucial to economic success

Chamber budget reflects stress of advertising, direct mail

Express Staff Writer

With its great weather, beautiful scenery and world-class ski mountain, how hard can it be to market Sun Valley to potential visitors?

Very hard, according to the Sun Valley/Ketchum Chamber of Commerce, which hopes to use more paid advertising--including the Internet--and direct mailings to lure tourists to Ketchum and Sun Valley.

The chamber’s 1988/99 budget includes $715,900 in marketing expenditures. The cities of Sun Valley and Ketchum, Sun Valley Company and Idaho Travel Council grants all contribute to the marketing budget, as do individual lodging companies.

While the actual budget numbers may seem high to the two city councils currently considering the chamber’s requests, Carol Waller, executive director of the chamber of commerce, points out that Sun Valley is way behind other ski resorts in terms of advertising.

"We’re not close to competing with the big, big players in the industry," Waller said.

Last year, the chamber spent $58,872 on advertisements in ski industry publications such as Ski magazine, Skiing and Snow Country.

Though Sun Valley Company, owner of the resort, also contributes to the purchase of these advertisements, Sun Valley chamber was outspent by all but two other western ski resorts in such magazines.

"We have such a small advertising budget that we do not even compete with places like Snowbird, Big Sky and Sunday River, much less the Tahoes, Tellurides and Vails," said Wally Huffman, general manager of Sun Valley Company.

One of the chamber’s biggest budget increases, therefore, is in the category of "Winter Marketing."

Along with an additional $58,000 spent on ski industry publications, the chamber will also spend money to increase its Internet presence, as well as finance direct mailings to potential skiers.

Last year the chamber spent $89,915 on "lifestyle" publications such as Conde Nast Traveler, the Wall Street Journal, Sunset, National Geographic Traveler and Outside.

But because the chamber hopes to keep skiing its priority, this year the chamber will spend just $35,400 on such publications in 1998/99.

"Ski magazines are one avenue where you know you’re talking to skiers," Waller said.

The chamber has also asked the cities of Ketchum and Sun Valley to contribute $10,000 each to an increased Internet presence. The chamber hopes to beef up not only its Web site, but to advertise through links to other skiing and travel sites, as well.

Direct mailings are another way to increase inquiries to the chamber, Waller said. Last year, one successful direct mailing, which included postcards of the area, attracted 11,000 inquiries.

Last year’s advertising and direct mailings, Waller said, triggered a 21 percent increase in overall inquiries.

"People are responding," she said. "At least we’re getting our message out."

But ultimately, these inquiries still needs to translate into actual visitors.

"We have such a great product, and we still have a hell of a time getting the word out," Huffman said.


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