Ski Corp. says snow has been key to airline promotion

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2012 meetings of the Local Marketing District

Jan. 20

March 16

May 18

July 20

Sept. 21

Nov. 16

All meetings begin at 9:30 a.m. in the upstairs conference room of First National Bank of the Rockies

— November and January are far from the busiest months of the ski season, but each represents a critical period when vacation bookings can spell the success of the winter season, Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. officials told members of the Local Marketing District on Friday.

Ski Corp. Airline Program Manager Janet Fischer reported that a current promotion that offers one-way fares as low as $135 from Chicago and $124 from Minneapolis, for example, already is yielding dividends. The offer also includes a 20 percent reduction in lift tickets and lodging for those who book before Wednesday.

“We’ve already seen a substantial uptick in bookings, and we’ve got another 12 days to go,” Fischer said. “I think we’re pleased with the results we’ve gotten so far from this push.”

Marketing District board member Rod Hanna, who retired as vice president of marketing at Ski Corp., said the snow that was forecast for today and Sunday was the key to accelerating the consumer response to the airline promotion before it expires Nov. 30.

“Snow and the simple fact that Steamboat will be open on Wednesday makes a big difference,” Hanna said.

“Any particular market that appears to be lagging?” Marketing District board member Steve Dawes asked Fischer.

“We are struggling on our Chicago flight more than other flights,” she said. “But that’s the one market on this report that I really saw a big change in.”

The board of the Marketing District is a statutory authority appointed by Steamboat Springs City Council, originally to oversee revenues from two points of lodging tax dedicated to supporting air service into Yampa Valley Regional Airport. Now, in the wake of city voters’ support of a 0.25 percent general sales tax to bolster those funds, the Marketing District also will manage those additional revenues.

The November marketing push is a Ski Corp. program that includes emails to repeat customers and prospects, a promotional video on prominent travel booking websites and oversized postcards trumpeting the low fares in different destinations. The marketing push isn’t just targeting the hub cities that direct ski season flights to Yampa Valley Regional Airport originate from. The campaign reaches out to other cities that feed those flights, Ski Corp. Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing Rob Perlman said. So, in support of Chicago, the promotional outreach went into New York and Boston, he said. Similarly, there are $135 fares from Austin, Texas, to feed the American Airlines flight to YVRA from Dallas and a $139 fare from Los Angeles on United Airlines with connections through Denver.

Fischer said the proportion of travelers connecting to Steamboat from cities beyond the hub cities varies with each hub.

“Houston has the strongest local (support) at 45 percent,” Fischer said. “A lot of them are about 28 to 30 percent.”

Emails went out to 22 destinations, and 20,000 postcards were mailed.

The special fares must be booked by Nov. 30 and are good for travel between Jan. 1 and April 1. Travel to Hayden is valid Sunday through Wednesday and travel from Hayden is valid Tuesday through Friday. But there also are low fares for people who really want to arrive in the Yampa Valley on Friday, Fischer said.

“For someone flying from Dallas, it’s a notch up from $135 to $149,” she said. Travelers can expect to pay $22 in taxes per roundtrip flight and any extra luggage fees.

There also are some black-out periods.

“If you go for Presidents weekend or the week after Christmas, you won’t find these fares,” Fischer said.

Perlman said the logistics of persuading three airlines spread across 22 cities to collaborate on the Steamboat promotion is complex.

Ski Corp. and the lodging community approach the airline with the discounts they are proposing and ask the airlines whether they will reciprocate with discounted fares, Perlman said.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

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