In its quarterly report Monday to the Ketchum City Council, the Sun Valley Marketing Alliance requested $450,000 of funding from the city’s upcoming 2015 fiscal year budget.
Last month, representatives of Ketchum and Sun Valley agreed to a plan in which Ketchum will contribute $450,000 to the marketing group and Sun Valley will contribute $350,000. If the cities make those allocations, the $800,000 sum would match the goal set when the organization was formed in 2010.
Marketing Alliance President Arlene Schieven said the organization has had several recent successes booking rooms and increasing its website visits to www.visitsunvalley.com. From Oct. 1, 2012, to March 31, 2013, the Marketing Alliance has generated just under $206,000 in booking revenues through the website, up 104 percent from about $109,000 earned between Oct. 1, 2011, and March 31, 2012.
“The new 1 percent local option tax will allow us to be in markets we’ve never been in before,” Schieven said. “We need our core funding because it allows us to operate out of air-service markets and return to regional markets. The No. 1 priority is building visitation and awareness in the winter.”
Schieven said website visits indicate increased interest in the Sun Valley area.
“All of our advertising drives to our website, and we use that as a main indicator of interest,” she said. “We’ve had a really strong increase in website visits of 51 percent from Oct. 1, 2012, to March 31, 2013, compared to that same period of the previous fiscal year.”
San Francisco has proven to be the No. 1 market in terms of website visits from Oct. 1, 2012, to March 31, 2013, with a 957 percent increase in visits. Los Angeles had a 136 percent increase, while Seattle had a 72 percent increase over that same span. With no marketing campaign in Boise this year, there has been a 6 percent decrease in website visits from that area.
Before the new 1 percent local option tax was implemented to support air service to the region, the Marketing Alliance had no money for a summer marketing campaign. Schieven said organization will have about $550,000 to spend solely on marketing to areas with direct air service—Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and, starting this summer, Denver. She said reserve funds will be taken out in order to fund advertising in regional markets such as Boise, Idaho Falls and Salt Lake City, to which there is also direct air service.
Schieven said the organization is actively trying to recruit new members.
“We’re trying to figure out new ways to encourage people to be members,” Schieven said. “We have 301 members now, had 304 last year, but we want to reach 350. I feel we’ve hit a plateau and now we need to figure out ways to increase involvement.”
Schieven concluded her remarks at the meeting with an explanation on why the Marketing Alliance is seeking to reduce its footprint in the Visitor Center in Ketchum. During a Planning and Zoning Commission meeting last week, Schieven said the organization wants an 80 percent decrease in the square footage its responsible for, from 1,000 to 200.
“There are trends of new ways to host visitors,” Schieven said. “Our cost of service is $9 per visitor, while the U.S. average for a visitor’s center is $2.50. Otherwise, you’re better off creating content for your website.”