Mountain Town News: Tourism marketing money now goes to social media influencers | ParkRecord.com

Mountain Town News: Tourism marketing money now goes to social media influencers

Allen Best
Mountain Town News

More snowmaking to help when temperatures warm

ASPEN, Colo. — Is this what climate change looks like? Ski slopes in Colorado and other parts of the West were slow to turn white, which isn't terribly unusual. What was eyebrow-raising was the warmth.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released a map for December through February showing that much of western Colorado, including Aspen, had "much above average" temperatures. So did portions of Utah, California, and other states.

That much warmth made snowmaking difficult in November and December, observed Victor Gerdin, mountain planner for the Aspen Skiing Co.

Snowmaking begins at temperatures of 26 degrees F. or less, but the machines can really create more robust amounts at about temperatures of 10 degrees F.

"Not only did we have very few days of 26 degrees or less, we had practically no days of 10 degrees in November and December," he told the Aspen Daily News.

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Aspen plans to upgrade snowmaking this summer at a cost of $5.5 million. In some projects, older infrastructure will be replaced. But the upgrades will also increase the amount of terrain that can be covered at the company's four ski areas.

Because of improved efficiency of snowmaking technology, new machines can allow the same amount of snow as was produced in the late 1990s, but with one-third to one-half less energy.

At Steamboat Ski Area, summer will come a little earlier this year, although not necessarily because of warmer temperatures. That, too, is the trend, but the ski area also has more to offer, including the mountain coaster and other attractions. The amusements get going during Memorial Day weekend and will operate daily beginning in mid-June.

Still dry in Four Corners with change unlikely for months

DURANGO, Colo. — The drought that began last year in the Four Corners area continues, with no change expected at least until August.

The U.S. Drought Monitor recently ranked the areas around Durango and Cortez as being in "exceptional drought" compared to the "extreme drought," one step down the dry scale, in other parts of Western and Southern Colorado, reports the Durango Herald.

Brad Rippey, a meteorologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said "exceptional drought" is considered to be a 1-in-50-year event. The snowpack in the rivers around Telluride and Durango stands at 31 percent of the normal.

In Durango, city water managers are preparing to issue restrictions of outdoor lawn irrigation, if necessary.

The paradox of deeper droughts coupled with enormous deluges

DENVER — The paradox of the warming climate is that even as droughts become longer and deeper, the rains will come with greater intensity.

That's what the models have said all along, and many climate scientists believe we are now seeing evidence.

In the Colorado River Basin, there's evidence that warming is already influencing the climate. Brad Udall, a water and climate research scientist at Colorado State University, points out that the years 2000 to 2017 have seen a 20 percent decline overall in precipitation in the basin. This is despite a 5 percent increase in moisture content in the warming atmosphere.

"Something very odd and unusual is going on," Udall said at the Water in the West Symposium last week in Denver.

About half the volume of the reservoirs has been lost during this period, about two-thirds of which can be explained by reduced precipitation.

Increased temperatures that cause evaporation as well as transpiration, explains about a third. Temperature induced losses in the basin will more than triple by 2050, he said, and increase almost six-fold by the end of the century.

Snowpack remains a mystery. "We really don't know what is going on (with the snowpack)," he said.

In California, a new modeling study published last week in Nature Climate Change examines the potential for even sharper pivots between extreme drought and extreme rain and snow. Recent years have brought record multi-year dryness between 2012 and 2016 then extreme wetness, in some places of the Sierra Nevada, a record during the winter of 2016-2017.

New modeling predicts increased periods of extreme drought during the 21st century but even more frequent deluges comparable to the state's great flood of 1862. During that year, about a meter (39 inches) of rain fell in a 40-day period. The Sacramento Bee describes the flooding as "pure catastrophe."

The study also finds that rain and snow in the warming climate will become more concentrated in narrow windows during the peak of winter, comparable to what happened in 1862, instead of from October to April.

Most important, though, is the increased frequency of big, big deluges and then flooding.

"It goes from being something that might happen once every other century, essentially, to happening maybe multiple times over the next 80 years," Daniel Swain, the lead author, told the Sacramento Bee.

The Bee also reports that $2.6 billion in funding for new reservoirs have been approved to assist with eight new reservoirs and other water storage projects, including a groundwater "bank" near Sacramento.

The new reservoirs, if actually constructed, would be the largest built in the last 40 years in California.

Tourism booming in Banff, and new strategies crafted

BANFF, Alberta — Coming off what is described as a blockbuster year in 2017, tourism promoters in the Banff-Lake Louise area think they know how to draw even more visitors.

Last year's success was driven in part by free admission to Canada's national parks on the 150th anniversary of the system, but also a robust global economy, reports the Rocky Mountain Outlook.

More visitors from the United States, Australia, and Europe continued to arrive, but direct flights from Mexico and China also delivered more.

Tourism promoters think they can induce even more visitors from the United States, Mexico, and the United Kingdom, but also China and other parts of Canada, including British Columbia.

Part of this plan includes targeting France. "The French are now saying they love Quebec, but they've been there and seen that. Now they're looking for other bilingual experiences, and national parks that present that opportunity because of the federal government's commitment to presenting experiences in French and in English," said David Roberts, chair of the Banff & Lake Louise Tourism.

The organization also hopes to produce growth in adventure tourism, wellness travelers, and tourism driven by food. To attract the foodies, the group wants to establish a unique and authentic food identity or "taste of place" for Banff and Lake Louise.

Road-kill grizzly anyone?

Tourism marketing money now goes to social media influencers

WHISTLER, B.C. — Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter have radically shifted the way tourism destinations and experiences are marketed. Ditto Snapchat, TripAdvisor, and other social media platforms.

Glossy double-page magazine spreads and slick television ads still sell the sizzle, but the steak is increasingly served up by visitors themselves and the influence they exert over their followers, reports Steven Threndyle, writing in Pique Newsmagazine.

Threndyle tells the story about what he calls a "new kind of celebrity in the tourism industry." One such social-media celebrity is Ally Pintucci, who recently wrapped up a #Staycations series in Whistler, hanging out in a new boutique hotel, "spa-ing" at a property called the Scandinavian, and snowmobiling, capturing all of this on Instagram and racking up "likes."

Social media is what Pintucci does. She makes a living at it. She recently had a one-month job at a new hotel and casino, Parq Vancouver. "Let's just say that her coverage was overwhelmingly positive," says Threndyle.

Persuasion marketing strategies have shifted to influence, says marketing guru Terry O'Reilly. Before social media, he says, celebrities from sports or Hollywood were used as pitchmen to sell products.

"They were the 'influencers' of their day. Today's most successful influencers are regular people who have become massively popular by offering their opinions, tips, recommendations and expertise online," he says.

"They are bloggers, Instragammers, YouTube stars and Snapchatters. Influencers attract huge audiences by creating a constant stream of original content. They use their own voices, their own personal channels, and their own aesthetics to create that content."

Tourism marketers now go directly to the most successful social media posters to co-create marketing campaigns. Destination Canada, for example, even hired California-based photographer Chris Burkard to shoot heli-skiing and snowboarding photos in the Monashee Mountain Range for his 2.9 million followers.

Destination BC, the provincial government's tourism marketing arm, has also been leveraging influencers to tell the province's no-doubt happy story. Paul Theroux, the travel writer with sometimes dour reports of his journeys, need not apply.

National Geographic provides an example of traditional marketing converging with social media marketing. The now multi-platform publisher has employed a Colorado rock climber, Emily Harrington, to scale several pitches along the Sea to Sky corridor along with other activities in the Whistler area in publicity sponsored by The North Face, the outerwear manufacturer.

Kirsten Homeniuk, vice president of marketing for Tourism Whistler, the town's marketing agency, says their stories resonate with people "because there's a story behind it. It's not just an ad."

Storytelling was also emphasized by Josie Heisig, an influencer marketing specialist for Destination B.C. "In tourism marketing, word-of-mouth is extremely important, and people tend to respond better to authentic storytelling—especially in social media."

Heisig says that working with social media influencers "can be more like hiring photographers or videographers, rather than a traditional media-hosting relationship. In the cases where we're aiming to reach a specific audience online, you could think about working with an influencer as similar to other forms of digital advertising."

This, Threndyle notes, "would seem to blur the very lines between 'influencer' and 'advertiser' that traditional media has always sought to keep separate." To comply with federal advertising standards, photos and stories appearing on the influencers' social media pages "must be clearly labeled as part of a paid partnership." But the sponsored content typically blends in seamlessly with other images.

At Lake Tahoe, social media marketing also came up at the recent Mountain Travel Symposium. Research conducted by marketing firm Chute found that 57 percent of people become introduced to a destination by word-of-mouth, but 44 percent learn of it through social media.

Social media continues to challenge marketers when promoting a destination, reports Lake Tahoe News. People use multiple platforms, and how they use them differs. In other words, the exact same message used every place probably isn't going to work.

What will be the gap between Vail Resort CEO and workers?

BROOMFIELD, Colo. — Vail Resorts, a publicly traded company, is legally bound to disclose the compensation of Rob Katz, the chief executive. How will it stack up with other CEOs in Colorado?

The Denver Post recently examined the pay given chief executives as required by a 2010 federal law. The CEOs in Colorado it studied earned 94 times the median annual pay of their employees. Vail Resorts is based in Colorado, but as of April 16, when the Post examined the records, the company had not reported the compensation of Katz.

The legislation was passed in response to the economic recession. Excessive risks were taken by executives as they cut corners to boost stock values and grow their own compensation, says the AFL-CIO labor union. There were also concerns that corporate culture in the country had moved away from an ethic of shared effort and shared reward to a hierarchical winner-takes-all approach, said the union's Brandon Rees, deputy director of corporations and capital markets.

Some companies said this analysis is unfair. Service-oriented businesses such as Chipotle, the chain restaurateur, require employees with less training. They also rely more heavily on part-time seasonal and foreign labor. All three dampen income. Median pay of Chipotle's 70,000 employees was $13,582. Its chief executive last year got $11 million. Median pay for oil and gas companies' employees, with higher training needs, was above $100,000 in Colorado.

One theme picked up by an analysist was that smaller companies have lower ratios between median and CEO compensation. If a giant in the mountain resort world, Vail Resorts is smallish among publicly owned companies.

Students pushing strawless policies at Tahoe restaurants

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — Students in the Lake Tahoe-Truckee area of the Sierra Nevada have been out making the rounds, trying to persuade restaurants that it's time for the last straw.

South Lake Tahoe, the municipality, earlier this year adopted a ban on polystyrene, a type of plastic. The ordinance requires restaurants to ask people if they want straws instead of delivering them automatically.

Lake Tahoe News reports that the students have been visiting restaurants and other businesses, seeking to persuade them to curtail straws altogether, as two of them have already done or make them available only upon request, as South Lake Tahoe requires.

The League to Save Lake Tahoe has provided reusable bamboo straws.

Lake Tahoe News says that more than 500 million single-used plastic straws get thrown away in the United States every day. It does not cite the source of that estimate. It also says that scientists predict that by 2050 there will be more pieces of plastic in the oceans than fish.