Is Sun Valley Falling Behind? Consultant Says More Could Be Done To Market Famous Winter Retreat

Apr 12, 2019

A consultant says the winter destination of Sun Valley could do more to lure in tourists during the cold months when the nation's first destination ski resort is competing against other recreation hotspots in California, Colorado and Wyoming.
Credit Thomas Hawk / Flickr

Sun Valley’s long history has established it as one of the most famous ski resorts in the country. However, a consultant says it’s lagging behind other winter destinations.

As the first destination ski resort in the U.S., and a longtime winter playground of the stars, Sun Valley’s reputation is established. Still, consultant Ralf Garrison tells a Sun Valley Economic Development forum more needs to be done to market the city and lure in tourists.

Garrison says the longtime Idaho hotspot is falling behind other popular resort cities. He points to occupancy rates to make his point. He says around peak skiing time – December, January and February – the Wood River Valley has occupancy rates in the 30 - 40% range. According to Garrison, that span nets tourism-reliant businesses enough money to cover fixed and variable costs. Profits are made above the 40% mark, and growth happens at 60% or higher.

The consultant says more marketing dollars should be spent to raise those occupancy rates. The suggestion comes as Ketchum officials have floated the idea of reducing the amount of money they contribute to nonprofit booster Visit Sun Valley.

According to the Mountain Express, Ketchum gives the organization $440,000 from a local-option tax. Ketchum leaders say funding measures have heightened investment in Visit Sun Valley in recent years while money for city services has stayed flat.

The mayor of Ketchum says the upcoming year’s budget is still being drawn up and nothing is settled.

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