Steamboat Chamber wants to broaden efforts to attract more group events to town
October 7, 2013
Steamboat Springs — Steamboat Springs already has a Mustang Roundup that fills several area hotels and draws hundreds of car enthusiasts to Lincoln Avenue.
So why can’t it also host a parade of Porsches like the one held in Traverse City, Mich., or a roundup of Ferraris?
To help attract more events like these to town, the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association and the Steamboat Springs Lodging Association are pitching to the city a new group sales pilot program that aims to grow the city’s stake in the lucrative group sales market.
The program won’t just be focused on getting more car groups to town, of course, but Chamber CEO Tom Kern likes to use the gathering of Mustangs as an example of the positive economic impact group events already have on the community.
"The Mustang Rally takes up all the large hotel properties, plus it spills over into the condo market and lodging on U.S. (Highway) 40," Kern said.
Kern told the Steamboat Springs City Council last week that compared to several other communities on the Western Slope, Steamboat is behind in its efforts to lure more groups with 100-plus participants to town.
Without giving the city away, Kern said he found that another Colorado mountain resort community successfully booked more than 80 large group events last year.
He said the bookings generated about 36,800 room nights and the direct expenditures from the visitors are estimated to have generated about $441,600 in city sales tax.
Here in Steamboat, the city attracts about 12 to 15 large groups in a year during events like the Mustang Roundup, the USA Pro Challenge and Triple Crown.
Kern said the city is behind partly because it lacks a program or an independent organization that can go out and effectively market the city to other larger groups.
Currently, he said the marketing departments at The Steamboat Grand and Sheraton Steamboat Resort — Steamboat’s largest lodging properties — can’t legally give out quotes for room rates from the competing properties.
To change this, the Chamber is requesting that the city invest $50,000 in a new program that would create marketing materials targeted at getting large groups to Steamboat and have the city represented at five trade shows that are attended by planners of large conventions.
The Chamber also would contract with a large group meeting consultant on the Front Range who would help tap into the market.
"I know there is a large group sales market in the Front Range, and I don’t think we’re exploiting that opportunity as well as we could," Kern said.
The City Council was receptive to the idea, but some members questioned the city’s proposed share in the cost of the program.
The city is being asked to pitch in $50,000, while the Chamber and the Lodging Association are proposing to invest $7,500 each.
Saying the program has greatest potential to boost lodging revenue, council member Cari Hermacinski questioned why the lodging community wouldn’t invest more in the project.
The goal of the program in the first year would be to attract three to five more group events to Steamboat.
The Chamber estimates that if this is realized, it would increase hotel room nights by 2,250 to 3,750, lodging tax revenue by $10,125 to $16,875 and sales tax revenue by $9,000 to $15,000.
"The good thing about this program is that long term, if it’s successful, it will fund itself," Kern said. "The commissions off of bookings would cover the cost of the staff time and the infrastructure."