Steamboat Springs This was a challenge Marsha Wilson couldn't pass up.
After working for the past seven years to bring people to Kentucky's bluegrass country, Wilson now is working to bring large conferences to Steamboat Springs.
She's already starting to perfect her new sales pitch.
“There's always something active that conference attendees want to go do,” Wilson said. “Here we've got the rodeo, flyfishing, mountain biking, the hot springs, the nature of being outdoors and all of the wildlife they could possibly see. There's a lot to choose from.”
There are also the golf courses and skiing and a long roster of special events.
Wilson said Steamboat's Western charm and its laid-back atmosphere will only help in bringing more conferences to town. She has been tapped by the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association to lead this city's new group sales pilot program.
It aims to boost the number of large group conferences that are held in Steamboat.
Prior to her hire, the city had no organized way of marketing itself to companies and other large groups as a destination for conferences.
Chamber CEO Tom Kern also said before the program was launched that it wasn't possible for competing properties like The Steamboat Grand and the Sheraton Steamboat Resort to work together to go out and market to groups that were too big for their respective properties.
The program aims to use new marketing materials and outreach efforts by Wilson to create new conference opportunities.
Wilson said it will take a lot of work to bring Ski Town USA into contention with other destinations that have had a head start in their marketing efforts.
She's spending her first weeks compiling a long list of potential contacts that regularly have conferences.
“The majority of the mountain towns in Colorado have been doing this for years, and Steamboat has really missed the boat. Literally,” Wilson said. “The more conferences the city can host, the more of an economic impact it has on the city.”
Wilson has 25 years of experience in the hospitality and tourism industry.
Most recently, she served as the destination sales account executive for the Lexington (Kentucky) Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“I’m thrilled with the breadth of Marsha’s experience and the energy she’s already brought to this new program,” Kern said. “Marsha has hit the ground running and has already garnered proposals for large conferences and explored new avenues for bringing groups to Steamboat.”
The $63,000 cost of the group sales program is funded equally by the city of Steamboat, the Chamber and the Lodging Association.
Wilson said part of the success of the program will rely on the people of Steamboat.
“I know there are a lot of people in the area who attend meetings they have to fly to or drive to. There's no reason a lot of those meetings can't be held in Steamboat,” she said.
She added her focus will be on conferences that require more than one lodging property.
“In doing that type of proposal, you need to have a third party,” she said. “I do think in the long term, it will be well worth it and very successful. It's not something that's going to happen overnight.”
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10