Park City lays foundation for big MLK weekends |

Park City lays foundation for big MLK weekends

With potential visitors accustomed to Park City being full of film festival attendees during Martin Luther King, Jr. Day weekend, since it has often overlapped with the Sundance Film Festival, the local lodging industry is using a bullhorn to announce: We’re open for the holiday and will be for the foreseeable future.

The contract Park City signed with the Sundance Film Festival in 2013 delays the start of the event until after the holiday, beginning this year. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is Jan. 19, with the festival slated to begin Jan. 22.

While the town makes millions of dollars during the film festival, Bill Malone, president of the Park City Chamber/Bureau, said that research done four or five years ago showed the town was missing out on revenue from being unable to use the MLK holiday as another big weekend during January.

"It showed that several millions of dollars were falling off the table in terms of spending in January when (the holiday) overlapped (with Sundance)," Malone said. "It was high on our agenda. We were encouraged that the leadership at Sundance Institute recognized it as well and helped make it happen."

Having more beds available over the holiday now gives the town equal footing with competing ski towns, which are see bigger numbers every year during that weekend, Malone said.

"It’s a pretty big deal when you look at it from a competitive standpoint," he said. "Many of our mountain resort competitors out there have watched the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday grow each year into something that actually rivals President’s Day. Now that we have that, we’re focusing energies on how we can build that."

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But getting the word out is not easy, as customers have been conditioned to overlook Park City during that weekend.

"We have many years of not being in play that we have to overcome," Malone said. "There’s kind of the old wisdom of, ‘Don’t look at Park City for that holiday.’ It’s going to take some time. But I think we’ll get there. Eventually, Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend will be the equivalent of President’s Day in February."

Chris Eggleton, general manager of Newpark Resort, said he is viewing the first year of MLK weekend being open as laying a foundation. While the town may not fill during this year’s holiday, he expects the marketing efforts to pay dividends in coming years.

Newpark Resort has paid search marketing campaigns spreading the word and is also participating in the Chamber/Bureau’s initiative to offer special deals during the holiday weekend.

"The first time we start doing anything, I think it’s more important that we’re supportive and the community rallies around it and everyone is conveying the brand message," Eggleton said. "That’s really what it’s about. Eventually, it will start to work and people will know the holiday is available for skiing. That message is getting out there."

The Chamber/Bureau’s marketing efforts are focusing on Southern California.

"We feel that’s a good place for us to be because they can get here on a quick flight," Malone said. "They could possibly stay a shorter period of time because Sundance does begin on that Thursday following MLK. It’s a really good opportunity to sell it as an extended weekend type of a trip."

Eggleton said targeting that area makes sense, as Park City can take some of the traffic California resorts see during the holiday.

"MLK weekend is a nightmare in place like (California ski resorts) Mammoth and Big Bear," Eggleton said. "Those places are so packed. I think we offer a better ski product, with a lot more convenience, generally speaking."

The three ski resorts are also making pushes to attract skiers over the holiday.

Deer Valley Resort is promoting its "Ski, Stay and Dine" package that offers 20 percent savings on accommodations and skiing through Feb. 12, said Emily Summers, communications manager. Canyons Resort and Park City Mountain Resort are advertising discounts specifically for MLK weekend on their websites, as well.

"It’s an opportunity that we’re going to have for the next 10 years," Malone said. "I think it’s something we can definitely build and overcome people thinking we’re not in play when it comes to that date."