$17,000 donation given
There may be more Oklahomans in the area this winter. Crested Butte Lodging and Property Management was awarded a share of the Town of Mt. Crested Butte’s admissions tax revenues for use in a new marketing campaign aimed at the Oklahoma City and Colorado Springs markets.
But if Frontier Airlines decides to fly into the Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport next year, the Town may have to dip into its general fund to cover the donation.
Crested Butte Lodging and Property Management is the second largest property management and vacation reservation business in the North Valley; just after Crested Butte Mountain Resort (CBMR), according to co-owner and general manager Wanda Bearth. The business has 200 short-term rentals available in Mt. Crested Butte, as well as a handful of long-term apartments. It also operates the Crested Butte Hostel.
The business came before the Mt. Crested Butte Town Council during a regular meeting on December 4 to request $17,319 of the admissions tax fund for use in a new marketing campaign.
Mt. Crested Butte charges a 4 percent tax on lift tickets at CBMR and is required to use the money on marketing. CBMR, the Gunnison- Crested Butte Tourism Association and the Crested Butte Music Festival all earn a share of the fund, which is divvied up during each budget cycle. The money is also used to support airline revenue guarantees.
Crested Butte Lodging presented a marketing campaign aimed at drawing travelers from two drive markets—Oklahoma City and Colorado Springs. "We feel there is a lot of potential left in those markets," said marketing director Patrick Seaman.
Crested Butte Lodging sales director Matt MacDonald explained how the advertisements would reach hundreds of thousands of potential visitors to the area. The marketing campaign would include advertisements and destination listings in the major local newspapers, links on locally oriented websites, radio spots and giveaways. "Basically this is just increasing visibility and trying to create as much excitement about Crested Butte as possible," MacDonald said
Council member Danny D’Aquila asked how people in Oklahoma were expected to arrive in Mt. Crested Butte.
MacDonald said Oklahoma City is a strong drive market, meaning people would be more likely to drive to the area than fly, partially due to weak airline connections. MacDonald also said Oklahoma City is a Frontier Airlines locale, providing great potential if the airline decides to offer local service next year.
The prospect of Frontier service began last fall when the airline announced it would be entering a handful of new mountain markets in conjunction with the purchase of 10 new aircraft. Gunnison Valley community leaders sent a detailed response to the airline expressing local interest in the service, but the airline has repeatedly delayed its decision since the initial announcement. Local officials are now hoping Frontier will expand its service into Gunnison next summer.
Mt. Crested Butte mayor Chris Morgan asked how the Town can be sure that marketing efforts aren’t being duplicated for the same area.
Bearth said the two locations had proven successful in the past as driver-oriented markets, but have declined in recent years—thus the motive behind the new campaign. In 2004 Colorado Springs was Crested Butte Lodging’s number one market source, and Oklahoma City was number three. Currently they fall at 15th and 18th, respectively, Bearth said.
Morgan said as a public entity the Town needs to have definable results from marketing efforts funded by tax revenues.
Seaman explained a number of different ways Crested Butte Lodging tracks its customers, including website cookies and mail-out pamphlets. He said they would definitely be able to give regular presentations on the progress of the marketing campaign.
Bearth said the Town could expect a four-to-one return on investment from new guests attracted by the marketing campaign.
Council member Mike Kube asked if the Town had any admissions tax money left to distribute in the 2008 budget, which was approved prior to Crested Butte Lodging’s presentation.
Morgan said the Town will have $154,000 due by the end of December, but will not actually receive the money until sometime next spring. However, $150,000 of the fund is reserved for the startup costs and operational guarantee of Frontier Airlines, as local officials await the announcement of the airline’s next new mountain market. That would leave the town $13,000 short, under the current year’s budget allocation.
However, Morgan said, some creative financing might do the trick. "If we did choose to fund this and Frontier became available… we could do a bridge loan from the general fund and repay it as (admissions tax) revenues came in," Morgan said.
Kube asked if the money was critical to creating the new marketing campaign. Bearth said if Crested Butte Lodging didn’t get the money they would probably go back to the drawing board.
The council unanimously approved the $17,319 allotment of admissions tax funds with the caveat that a bridge loan might be necessary.