Tourism Association reports increase in website visitors

Call volumes dropping off
Over the past three years advertising efforts by the Gunnison/Crested Butte Tourism Association have had positive results, officials say, notwithstanding a nationwide trend of more families using the Internet instead of the phone to book vacations.

Tourism Association director Jane Chaney gave a report on their success to the Mt. Crested Butte Town Council during its regular meeting on Tuesday, October 16.
According to Chaney’s report, Internet traffic has more than doubled since 2006, with an average of 63,500 unique visitors to Gunnison, Crested Butte, and Mt. Crested Butte websites each month. Conversely, telephone calls to visitor information and travel planning services are down 37 percent this year.
Mt. Crested Butte Town Council member Bill Babbitt asked if the lower call volume was a significant issue.
Chaney said, “It’s a national trend. Call volumes are down and web traffic is definitely up.” Additionally, she said, many more people are using the Internet to research accommodations in the area and then phoning lodging businesses and ski equipment services directly.
The Tourism Authority doesn’t limit their advertising to websites, Chaney said, and one strategy that is becoming more popular is using subscription emails, called E-blasts. According to her report, 3,000 people have subscribed for this service to find more information about winter activities, while 14,000 people have subscribed for information about summer activities.
“How come winter is so small?” Babbitt asked.
Chaney said there are fewer winter subscribers because many people are definitive about their winter travel plans and know where they want to go. Information about summer activities is popular because some people may be looking for new places to spend their summer vacation, she said.
The biggest success, Chaney said, is a 30 percent increase in revenues generated from the county’s lodging tax over the past three years. The voter-approved Local Marketing District, the parent organization of the Tourism Authority, collects the lodging tax.
Council member William Buck asked, “How are these numbers tracking in relation to the rest of the state?”
Even when compared to other destinations with more lodging options, the funding increase was ahead of the competition, Chaney said. “That’s good news,” she added.
Council member Danny D’Aquila asked if the Tourism Association had any new marketing plans for the upcoming season.
Chaney said the Tourism Authority would follow the national trend and focus more resources on Internet advertising. She also said more emphasis would also be placed on pictures of the area. “It’s all about the mountains. People want to see spectacular mountains and tons of snow,” Chaney said.
Council member Mike Kube said, “I think the (Tourism Association’s) results are good.” Kube said he heard concerns from constituents that 60 percent to 70 percent of the association’s funds are generated in the town of Mt. Crested Butte because of close association with Crested Butte Mountain Resort (CBMR). Kube said the issue was that while CBMR may be up in its lodging sales, other lodging businesses in the town were down. “We want to get to the bottom of why,” he said and asked Chaney to look into the matter.
One possible explanation offered by Buck is that it’s hard to distinguish between the towns of Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte in advertisements.
Buck said the town of Mt. Crested Butte isn’t identified by the Tourism Association’s banner logo. “I’m feeling a bit of identity crisis in Mt. Crested Butte… Even members of the Colorado Association of Ski Towns don’t realize we’re separately incorporated.”
Chaney said the logo was the result of a branding study completed in 2003. She agreed that “Mt. Crested Butte” wasn’t specifically identified, but said even businesses in Mt. Crested Butte are branded with “Crested Butte” in their names, like the Grand Lodge Crested Butte.
The Mt. Crested Butte Town Council will discuss funding contributions to the Tourism Association during a budget work session on November 6.

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