Local tourism is key component of economic recovery, Steamboat Chamber CEO says while looking at cuts for 2021 | SteamboatToday.com

Local tourism is key component of economic recovery, Steamboat Chamber CEO says while looking at cuts for 2021

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Since 1985, the Steamboat Springs Chamber has partnered with the city of Steamboat Springs to provide marketing efforts to bring visitors to the area. With the ongoing pandemic and its financial impacts, tourism is more important now than ever, according to the Chamber.

The Chamber on Tuesday presented its 2021 proposal to the Steamboat Springs City Council for the continuation of the organization’s ongoing destination marketing efforts. Its goals are to expand Steamboat’s appeal as a destination while generating demand in off-peak periods, enhance the destination experience while protecting the integrity of resources through sustainable tourism efforts and communicate the power of tourism and its ability to drive both economic and lifestyle benefits to residents.

“At the core of everything that the Chamber does, we’re focused on supporting businesses, providing a landscape that enables them to thrive and provide meaningful employment opportunities,” said Chamber CEO Kara Stoller. “One main avenue in which we do that is through our destination marketing.”

Stoller said the Chamber is well aware of the financial challenges facing the city both this year and for 2021, which led to a decrease in the Chamber’s ask for 2021 as well as a decrease in its 2020 spend. The Chamber requested $715,000 from the city for next year, with $80,000 in savings set to be carried over from 2020.

“Tourism is a key economic driver for our community and also a key component to the city’s revenues,” Stoller said. “We need to continue this work certainly now more than ever.”

In 2009, a task force of community members and city staff was created to evaluate the marketing program, which determined the efforts on behalf of the city should continue to be contracted with the Chamber.

“Tourism has proven already and will continue to be a critical piece of our road to recovery,” Stoller said.

A primary goal for 2020 was to see a 10% increase in the city’s accommodation tax. While that fell short due to COVID-19, there has been a steady increase in lodging bookings since reopening short-term lodging in June, according to the Chamber.

Future lodging bookings indicate that the year-over-year gap in both accommodation and sales tax collections will narrow throughout the rest of the summer and fall, according to the Chamber.

Laura Soard, Chamber marketing director, laid out the marketing goals for council, beginning with a review of the Chamber’s efforts for the rest of 2020. 

Through mid-summer and fall, the Chamber’s goal is to encourage additional travelers to visit Steamboat by encouraging road trippers, weekend warriors, outdoors enthusiasts and other travelers to get back on track.

“Looking at those people that have that pent up demand for travel, how can we get them to come here to Steamboat?” Soard said.

The total economic impact of summer tourism in 2019 for Steamboat was $166 million, according to the chamber, with 1,897 jobs attributed to the tourism. 

“We know it’s a significant impact,” Soard said. “This year, more than ever, we have felt what that means to not have people here.”

To help offset the losses in 2020, the Chamber will continue its priority to impact economic recovery with visitation efforts, execute a recovery plan and attract high-value guests while not necessarily having the large events formerly seen in Steamboat.

Council did take action on the Chamber’s proposal but offered some direction ahead of city budgeting that begins in October.

Council member Kathi Meyer said she was concerned the Chamber’s per-dollar media buy was low.

“I would like to see more of the city’s money go to media buy if this is really destination marketing,” Meyer said.

Noting that the city had previously asked other city departments to make a 20% cut due to COVID-19, Council Member Robin Crossan said she was torn over the Chamber’s dollar request.

“All the other parts of the city have been asked to cut so much more,” Crossan said. “We do have to spend money to bring visitors here. At the same point in your household budget, if you save money, you’re saving money for something needed in the future.”

Crossan suggested the $80,000 in savings to be carried over to 2021 should be part of the Chamber’s spend, which means the city should reduce what is being given because the Chamber was able to save.

Council will make a final decision on its contribution during its 2021 budgeting session beginning next month.

To reach Bryce Martin, call 970-871-4206 or email bmartin@SteamboatPilot.com.

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