This Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association billboard greets motorists on Interstate 70 outside of Denver.
Steamboat Springs The Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association is casting its line into the Front Range for what is expected to be a competitive summer tourism season.
The Chamber runs national print ads as well as statewide print and TV ads each summer. This year, however, the agency is planning a promotion in Denver newspapers, Marketing Director Lynna Broyles said. She hasn't finalized the deal but expects it to involve Chamber gift certificates that could be used for food and gasoline.
"I want to give people an added reason to come to Steamboat this summer because I think it is going to be a challenge," Broyles said.
Her aim was to put the word out now to avoid having to conjure up a plan if tourism stagnates when summer is in full swing. The Chamber preliminarily forecasts 21 percent lodging occupancy for Saturday. For the same weekend last year, it was 44 percent.
"I'm trying to build this promotion ahead of the season," Broyles said. "I'm trying to put my ducks in a row at the beginning."
Americans are feeling the pinch of a stumbling economy, and gasoline and airline ticket prices are climbing nationwide.
According to the federal Energy Information Administration, the Rocky Mountain region saw regular gasoline prices increase 16.5 cents a gallon last week from the week before. That took the regional average to $3.85 a gallon. That still was less than the national average, almost $3.94 a gallon.
Broyles said those factors were expected to change Americans' vacation habits.
"The travel indicators show people are going to be staying closer to home," she said. "This is a proactive push in the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News to encourage people to stay close to home, to come to Steamboat."
Broyles is aiming in part for folks who opt for a weekend trip instead of, for example, a week on the beach.
She plans to spend about $3,000 of her Chamber budget on the promotion. The Chamber also subleased a Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. billboard on Interstate 70 west of Denver. It tells drivers that Steamboat is "3 hours and 2 turns" away.
"We have put more advertising out in the marketplace this year than we have in the past several years, at least since 2001," Broyles said.
The Steamboat Ski Area hasn't added much to its usual summer event lineup, Ski Corp. spokeswoman Heidi Thomsen said. The mountain isn't yet open for biking and hiking.
Gondola rides are set to start this weekend, Thomsen said, and the Gondola Square Adventure Zone will have a new attraction this summer: a mechanical bull.
Steamboat expects typical heavy traffic from Triple Crown Sports events, Broyles said. The company will bring seven tournaments and a camp to town this year. Triple Crown events start Monday with the girls fast-pitch softball Mountain Magic Camp.
"Regardless of the economy, our Triple Crown teams are booking up very well and staying solid," Broyles said. "They're not going to disappoint their kids. They're going to find a way to make it here for the summer. We have that kind of rock-solid background with Triple Crown."
Broyles said she was working on her plans with Edwards-based Hill & Company Integrated Marketing and Advertising.
"I'm definitely taking the challenges very seriously," she said. "I'm doing everything I can to leverage the budget and get ad buys. That is of huge importance this year."