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Internet playing a larger role in Park City marketing

Almost all vacations are planned and booked on the Internet now about 88 percent, according to the Park City Chamber/Bureau.

The success of the city’s and resorts’ marketing effort is now heavily affected by how well they can reach the target markets and convince them to come to Park City online.

"The target markets stay pretty much the same, but the message must change and must be fluid to react to economic changes as well as those Mother Nature provides us," said Cathy Miller, director of sales and marketing for the Chamber/Bureau.

Every week, members of the Chamber/Bureau marketing council, including representatives from the resorts, meet for two hours to plan a cohesive strategy for marketing the community.

Krista Parry, director of marketing for Park City Mountain Resort, said it’s important to the resorts that they promote a brand that’s consistent with that of the town.

Every year, members of that council travel to about a dozen large cities meeting with media to promote the town. They recently returned from Toronto. Over the years, the most valuable market has proven to be New York City, Miller explained.

This is the third year of doing television marketing in New York, and each year Park City has seen increased return from that investment, said Coleen Reardon, director of marketing for Deer Valley Resort. They also tend to stay longer, since it takes a bigger commitment to come here.

Within each market, there are different types of customers: avid skiers, retirees looking for new hobbies, college students looking for a winter break destination, etc. Online marketing allows the community to better search out those consumers, and tailor the message to match what they’re looking for, Miller said.

"The Internet is our most important marketing tool our most valuable communication piece," Reardon said. "We can update and change information. As we create new packages and things develop, we change and update the site to have most current information."

As one might expect, Deer Valley’s most frequently checked page during the season is the snow conditions.

If the weather is favorable, more ads promoting Utah’s snow are posted. If it’s poor, more ads promoting the community as a complete package can be used, Miller explained.

Parry at PCMR said that after extensive market research, the resort has found that its best customers are families coming for a winter vacation. Because many of them are from warm-weather states, they’re often clueless as to how to prepare for it.

"Going to the beach takes little planning," she explained.

PCMR’s goal over last couple years has been to make the experience as easy as possible. Because so many vacations are planned online, the resort has created an interactive tool to help families create itineraries for their trips.

"People want options when they go on vacation. Park City offers that," she said.

From home, parents can choose the right ski schools for their children, set-up equipment rentals, find family-friendly restaurants and plan museum and tubing excursions.

"We’ve found that it’s simple for people to see all the things to do here, but difficult to get all that information in one place," Parry said.

The tool allows visitors to map out their itinerary and print it off to carry around.

The site will also post blogs from moms about their trips. Both locals and visitors from warm states were recruited to give personal perspectives on their experiences in Park City.

Another important aspect of Internet marketing is attracting foreign visitors. The weak dollar has made a Park City vacation more affordable.

Park City has seen its share of visitors from as far away as Australia. Ski fans Down Under have few options, and usually fly to Japan. The extra distance to Park City is not a problem to them, Reardon said.

Many businesses in the area are optimistic about the new Delta flights between Paris.

The ability to ski the same day a visitor flies in has always been a major selling point of Park City. And while many airports near resorts are getting fewer flights come through due to challenges in the airline industry, the Salt Lake International Airport hasn’t seen the same effects, Miller said.

Kathy Burke, apparel buyer for Colesport, believes 2008-2009 will see many more European visitors and is excited about the prospect for business.

Reardon at Deer Valley said the best European visitors come from the United Kingdom. Even though the Paris connection may shorten the flight, she doesn’t anticipate it making that big of a difference. But she’s still excited because if the connection is successful, Delta may consider starting one to London.

All of these factors are possibilities Park City businesses want to take advantage of, and the flexibility of Internet marketing makes that possible.

Reardon said her team already started re-evaluating their campaign to make sure they’re on target, but had to stop since it’s still too early in the season to tell.


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