Visitors welcome: Tourism publicity steps up
Pressured by local businesses, the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association is planning to put a greater emphasis on promoting tourism.The stepped-up focus is coming as the chamber is adjusting to the loss of its tourism marketing director just ahead of its busy summer season. Lori Hogan resigned on May 10 to pursue work in advertising, said chamber executive director Marianne Virgili.The chamber is planning to create a tourism marketing board after concerns raised by representatives of several prominent tourism businesses in town, including the Hot Springs Lodge & Pool, Sunlight Mountain Resort, Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, the Hotel Denver and the Ramada Inn. Kjell Mitchell, general manager for the Hot Springs Lodge & Pool, said the group of businesses began meeting earlier this year over concerns about the job being done by the chamber on tourism promotion.”We need to bring tourism to the forefront,” Mitchell said.The chamber responded with the idea of elevating its existing tourism marketing committee to the level of a board. At a chamber marketing meeting at the Ramada Inn this week, Virgili said the move will create a more autonomous entity with full control over tourism funds. Those funds total more than $500,000 a year, and are generated by a city lodging tax. The city contracts with the chamber to do tourism marketing. City Council members also have said they plan to review the job the chamber is doing. Virgili said the chamber board also has made bringing tourism marketing to a new level its top goal for the year, so the initiative by local businesses keeps with that goal.The timing of Hogan’s departure was merely coincidental and was not related to recent concerns about tourism marketing, Virgili said. She said Hogan remains on good terms with the chamber, which may do some business with her. Hogan could not be reached for comment.Tourism in town increased last year, according to one key measure. The city’s accommodation tax revenues grew 3.8 percent over 2003, reaching $516,964.But concerns remain. City Council member Chris McGovern has questioned the worth of the chamber’s central reservations system now that so many people reserve lodging via the Internet. Virgili said the chamber has decided to end use of a Canadian company to handle reservations, and instead is using Springs Travel in Glenwood Springs to handle that function to the degree it remains necessary.Also an issue is how much of the tourism fund the chamber uses for shared or support costs, such as salaries, equipment, building space and information technology expenses, Virgili said. The chamber’s current contract allows up to 40 percent of the fund to be used for such costs, rather than for direct tourism promotion expenditures such as advertising. Virgili said tourism businesses probably want more oversight in determining those costs, and the chamber also needs to better educate its members about the justification for the expenses.The new tourism board is forming at the start of the city’s busiest tourism season, and just as the city also is starting work on next year’s budget. In addition, the chamber is still trying to determine exactly what advertising Hogan had planned before departing.That’s because Hogan’s departure, if amenable, was abrupt. Virgili said that typically, when people in a position such as Hogan’s quit, the resignation is immediate, because the chamber and city don’t want to risk losing valuable proprietary information such as mailing lists of visitors. The chamber’s Janet Rippy is serving as acting tourism marketing director, and the chamber expects to have a better grasp on its summer marketing plan within a few weeks.The group of tourism businesses also has raised concerns about the chamber’s Web site and publications, such as its annual tourism piece. The chamber is forming subcommittees of businesses that will focus on improving each of those components.Meanwhile, Rippy is brainstorming new ideas for tourism promotion, including possibly offering gasoline vouchers to visitors as some other resort towns are doing. In Glenwood Springs, the vouchers could be provided for those staying for two nights from Mondays through Thursdays, to boost visitation at the time of week when lodges aren’t already booked, she said. She said $30,000 now being saved on central reservations could help fund such a program. At Wednesday’s meeting, tourism industry representatives suggested alternatives to gas vouchers, such as free dinners or coupon books that would benefit a variety of businesses.Mitchell said he is encouraged by what the chamber is doing to address the concerns of local businesses, but it remains to be seen whether those actions will go far enough. He said the group hasn’t excluded any options, including possibly seeking to contract independently with the city to manage its tourism marketing.Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.org
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