Chamber/Bureau puts Park City on world map
It’s not uncommon during the winter in Park City to run into people visiting from another country on the ski slopes or at a Main Street bar.
Each winter, foreigners make up roughly 8 or 9 percent of the total amount of visitors who flock to town for ski vacations — and they typically stay longer than those coming from within the United States. But they don’t just end up here. Behind the scenes, the Park City Chamber/Bureau dedicates countless hours to making sure people around the world see Park City as an ideal North American ski town.
Chad Wassmer, director or tourism sales and marketing for the Chamber/Bureau, said there are five primary markets that make up the majority of international visitation to Park City. Australia is the largest, followed by the United Kingdom, Mexico, Germany and Brazil.
While the characteristics of each country are different, they are united by one factor: Many people in them have money to spend, and they want to spend it on skiing. Still, the Chamber/Bureau has to get them to choose Park City over other ski towns around the world.
Doing so requires following a strategy of how to best reach potential customers. Germans, for instance, prefer to book vacations through traditional methods such as travel agencies and tour operators, Wassmer said. So the Chamber/Bureau directs the bulk of its marketing there toward industry professionals.
In Mexico, however, the Chamber/Bureau targets high-profile influencers, who come to Park City, then go back home and spread the word about their vacations.
“Every market is different, and you have to look and see what works,” Wassmer said.
There are also a number of emerging markets Park City is trying to tap into, such as Argentina, the Dominican Republic, Panama, Switzerland and the Netherlands. The Chamber/Bureau is particularly targeting Latin America, where staffers see an opportunity to take advantage of emerging economies.
“As you see an influx of money come to a place, and there’s more disposable income, typically those people want to spend it,” said Geoff Swarts, Latin America international sales and marketing manager. “For us, the type of product that we offer fits the demographic of higher-income Latin Americans.”
But getting Latin Americans to visit Park City can be difficult because some countries lack a developed ski culture. While Mexico, for instance, has long idealized a week in a resort town as the perfect winter vacation, many other countries are just beginning to develop a love of the slopes.
“Park City is competing against other destinations and other vacations, such as cruises, beaches, safaris, you name it,” Swarts said.
Fortunately for the Chamber/Bureau, it is not alone in the struggle to reach international visitors. It partners with organizations such as the Utah Office of Tourism, Ski Utah and Brand USA, a marketing organization that promotes tourism to the United States.
Chamber/Bureau representatives often go on sales missions to foreign countries arranged by the Utah Office of Tourism. The UOT and Brand USA also give the Chamber/Bureau funding for certain marketing efforts, helping the Chamber/Bureau’s limited budget stretch further than it otherwise would.
“It’s almost like a ladder, where we’re all working together to promote international visitation,” Swarts said.
The biggest challenge the Chamber/Bureau encounters in trying to bring in foreigners is the strength of the U.S. dollar. A vacation here costs more than it would in countries like Canada, Japan and Switzerland. However, Park City does have one major advantage that most other ski towns don’t: an international airport nearby.
Swarts said that benefit is amplified each time a direct flight is opened between Salt Lake City and a major international city. Foreign visitors, even more than those from other states, don’t want to deal with the hassle of connecting flights.
“You look at Aspen or Vail, they don’t have direct flights out of the UK or Amsterdam,” he said. “They have to take multiple flights, and when you’re going on a ski vacation with a family, that’s a lot to manage.”
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Another ski season is in the books, and much to the relief of the restaurant industry, the outlook, like the weather, is looking sunny.