“Tourism is a business. It’s not a hobby.”
That’s just one of a fountain of motivational one-liners fired off at the Idaho Economic Development Association 2013 Spring Conference by Myles Rademan, spokesman for Park City, Utah.
“Is tourism right for your town?” he said Wednesday during a speech at the Sun Valley Inn, referring to all communities in Idaho. “If you say, ‘Bah! Humbug,’ then tourism isn’t right for your town. It’s really about being hospitable.”
Rademan said he first visited the Sun Valley area about 40 years ago, and now serves on the boards of the Utah Ski and Snowboard Association and the Park City Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau. Rademan said the baby boomer generation, skiing’s main demographic, is retiring, and resorts need to look forward to secure their futures.
“The past is not the future,” he said, “If you rest on your laurels, your laurels are in the wrong place. Change happens whether you want it or not, and doing nothing is doing something.”
Rademan advocated something he termed the “Flypaper Effect,” meaning that resort communities should be “sticky,” so people will visit and stay longer.
But what does he mean by “sticky?” Rademan suggested several tactics for helping to draw people to a resort community and getting them to stay.
Rademan said resort communities must be willing to invest in themselves, including supporting taxes that drive tourism.
He said tourists are less inclined to invest their own money in an area by visiting if a community has not already invested in making the area an excellent place to visit.
“Great communities invest in infrastructure, trails, etc.,” he said.
However, Rademan said that “really great” communities invest in their leaders. He said Park City has a leadership training program, “Leadership Park City,” that local leaders such as mayors and city council members participate in. The program is funded by contributions from community organizations. Rademan said that such programs are valuable networking tools and help keep leaders on the same page.
“Community means common unity,” he said. “Then there’s some horsepower behind it.”
The Sun Valley area currently has no such leadership program.
Access for visitors
Rademan said natural resources make a great baseline to draw visitors, but are “never, ever enough” to drive sufficient numbers on their own. For that, he said, visitors need to be able to easily access the resort area.
He said Park City is fortunate to be located near Salt Lake City International Airport and does not have to subsidize flights to make it easier for potential visitors to get to the area. However, he said areas such as Sun Valley are different, and need to be willing to pay in exchange for air service.
“That’s something you absolutely have to do if you’re going to be successful,” he said.
A proposal on the Ketchum, Hailey and Sun Valley November 2012 election ballots that would have increased the local-option tax in those cities by an additional 1 percent to subsidize more air service into Friedman Memorial Airport passed in Sun Valley, but failed in the two other cities.
Hailey and Ketchum are expected to reintroduce the measure this November, and Sun Valley is waiting for the other cities to pass the tax before collecting it with them.
Skiers ride the Challenger lift on the Warm Springs side of Bald Mountain last month. A marketing expert told a conference in Sun Valley this week that the Wood River Valley should invest in its tourism infrastructure and aggressively support air service to the region.
Express photo by Roland Lane
According to Rademan, resort areas must “get on the right bullhorn” to ensure they hover near the top of potential visitors’ minds—in other words, they need to market themselves effectively.
“We [in Park City] love it when Ketchum/Sun Valley doesn’t advertise,” Rademan said. “That means we’re cleaning your clock. Without a large megaphone in today’s world, no one’s going to know [about you],” he said.
Rademan said consistency and unity is important in marketing as well as in leadership.
In the Sun Valley area, some residents and public officials have argued that the marketing effort has recently been inconsistent. Last year, Sun Valley decreased its contribution to the Sun Valley Marketing Alliance, while Ketchum increased it. At the same time, debates have occurred over whether the money that is collected and spent is being used in an effective manner.
Rademan said special events such as the Sundance Film Festival and the 2002 Olympics (what he called the “granddaddy” of special events) have been vital for enticing visitors to Park City and generating priceless publicity.
He said resort communities “better be serious” about investing public money in such events and thereby driving visitors to the area.
Both Ketchum and Sun Valley have created special events funds this year. Several relatively new events, such as the Sun Valley Film Festival, the Sun Valley Harvest Festival, and Music and Art Showcase-Sun Valley (MASSV) have received contributions from those funds.
What can Sun Valley do?
In an interview after the lecture, Rademan talked specifically about Sun Valley.
“The one thing the Sun Valley area can do to increase tourism as an economic driver? That’s easy,” Rademan said. “Cooperate and market more aggressively together. Best of luck. This is a wonderful community.”
Brennan Rego: firstname.lastname@example.org