With fears about the fate of the Outdoor Retailer trade show out of the way, the Salt Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau will square its shoulders and focus on what's next.
At the bureau's 2004 President's Forum, held Thursday at the Salt Palace Convention Center, Dianne Binger unveiled the organization's marketing plan for the coming year and outlined some of its strategies for bringing business and leisure travelers to Utah.
What's next, according to Binger, the bureau's president and chief executive, is a multifaceted campaign to capitalize on two of Salt Lake's biggest assets: its proximity to the "great outdoors" and its renowned family history resources.
Today the bureau will launch an Internet marketing campaign in partnership with the travel Web site Travelocity. The "one of a kind" program, developed for the bureau's Ski Salt Lake initiative, will direct Travelocity customers to the Ski Salt Lake Web site, where they can book real-time ski packages, including airfare, car rental, hotel and ski passes. The partnership also will give Ski Salt Lake $400,000 of in-kind advertising on the Web site.
The Ski Salt Lake program allows visitors to ski all four Salt Lake County ski resorts — Alta, Brighton, Snowbird and Solitude — on one "joint lift ticket."
"The program will put Ski Salt Lake on the top shelf of U.S. ski destinations — right where it belongs," Binger said. "We will benefit from the millions of Web hits Travelocity receives every month and drive additional business to Salt Lake."
During the 2003-2004 ski season, more than 46,000 Ski Salt Lake Super Passes were packaged with hotel rooms and sold to out-of-state skiers, a 53 percent increase over the previous year. The bureau's goal for the the 2004-2005 season is 68,000, Binger said.
But the program will have to do more with less in 2005, according to the bureau report. Funded in part by the state transient room tax, the total budget for the Ski Salt Lake program was $734,750 in 2004. In 2005, the program was allocated $676,350.
The bureau also will target the family history market in 2005. Marketing Salt Lake as the "Genealogy Capital of the World," Binger said it will advertise via targeted mailings and trade shows.
According to its report, the bureau added 3,000 genealogical societies to its database, which now contains 4,500 entries.
There is tremendous momentum building in Salt Lake, Binger said, and 2005 will be a "banner year" for the local convention industry.
The announcement in August that the twice-yearly Outdoor Retailer trade show would remain in Salt Lake City for another five years led to the approval to expand the Salt Palace. It was followed by the announcements that Nordstrom and Delta Air Lines planned to remain. And the city is still waiting to see what The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will do with its two downtown malls and education complex.
In 2005, the Salt Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau will host more than 300 meetings, with 29 large conventions booked at the Salt Palace. According to bureau estimates, delegates from those conventions will spend more than $165 million in Utah during 2005. Binger said the bureau also expects about 1,500 ski groups, bus tours and genealogy societies will utilize its services.
Last year, the bureau booked more than 500,000 room nights at local hotels and generated more than $212 million in direct visitor spending from conventions, ski groups, tours and leisure travelers. In 2005, the bureau said it hopes to book about 536,000 room nights.
This is despite increasingly fierce competition from cities like San Francisco and Minneapolis, New York and Washington, D.C., Binger said.
"Contributing factors like a downturn in the travel economy, technological innovations like Internet meetings, and a national over-supply of hotel rooms and convention facilities continue to create a challenging booking atmosphere," she said. "We are working harder, and smarter, to meet the challenges facing us today.
"Salt Lake, like many other destinations, has a great airport, convention center, hotels and attractions," she said. "What makes us unique is that we are a metropolitan destination nestled in the mountains, with immediate access to hiking, mountain biking, fly fishing, skiing and golfing. . . . We will continue to focus on our unique assets."