Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association begins efforts to attract more group conferences to town | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association begins efforts to attract more group conferences to town

Crowds on Lincoln Avenue check out the Mustangs parked downtown during the annual Mustang Round Up. The Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, the city and the Steamboat Lodging Association have launched a new program that aims to attract more group events like the Mustang Roundup to Steamboat.

— Hoping to score new business from groups such as the Rocky Mountain Corvette Club and others that travel in large packs, the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association is working to get a new group sales program up and running by April.

"The potential payoff for the community if this program is successful is pretty significant," Chamber CEO Tom Kern said Tuesday.

Last week, a majority of the Steamboat Springs City Council signed off on the city spending $21,000 to help get the program up and running.

The Chamber and the Lodging Association also will contribute $21,000 each.

Kern said meetings with lodging partners already are underway, and the program will entail developing a website, attending new trade shows and hiring an employee, likely from the Front Range, who could help get more groups to come up to Steamboat.

Kern said that on their own, the city, the lodging properties and the Chamber could not afford to create an effective program like this.

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He said it's hard for properties such as The Steamboat Grand and the Sheraton Steamboat Resort to work collaboratively together to try and attract groups big enough to use more than one hotel.

Currently, one of the largest groups that comes to Steamboat travels here for the Rocky Mountain Mustang Roundup.

Kern pointed to the upcoming 2014 World Summit of the International Mountain Biking Association in Steamboat as an example of the type of new businesses the group sales program could help to attract.

The last IMBA World Summit in Santa Fe, N.M., was attended by more than 400 participants.

"If each conference attendee spends $500 with hotel food and the like, that’s a $2 million to $2.5 million conference coming here. Those are the things we’d like to do more of," Kern said.

He told the council that the program likely will generate enough revenue to fund itself in as soon as three years.

The goal of the program is to secure three to five additional group conferences or events during the first year.

The group sales project mostly earned praise when it was presented to the council Tuesday night.

Council member Scott Ford was the only one to oppose the request for the city to help fund it.

He said it was a good idea, but he questioned whether city funds should be used to help support a business venture.

"If this is a good idea, this should work without us," Ford said. "Our job is essentially to do the best we possibly can with the sales tax dollars that are given to us, not to chase new sales tax dollars, necessarily."

Council member Walter Magill said he viewed the expenditure as a sort of offseason summer marketing purchase.

"I’d agree it’s not essential services certainly to market for the Sheraton and the Grand, but I think it does drive the new visitor experience up here," he said.

The approval also spurred a short conversation among some council members about the level of funding the city is supplying to the Chamber each year.

"I feel good about the direction of the Chamber, but I also think we give the Chamber a lot of money, and what I see is it is just creeping up in increments," council member Sonja Macys said. "What I would like to see this council consider at some point is how much are we really putting into the Chamber? … I want us to take a hard look at that at some point in time."

She added that she wants to ensure the city is getting its return on investment for all of its funding.

The council has approved more than $700,000 in funding for the Chamber for 2014, with the lion’s share going toward summer marketing.

The total includes $600,000 for summer marketing, $100,000 for special events development, $15,000 for trade show marketing, $21,000 for the new large group sales project and $50,000 for an economic development contract.

"I’m happy to sit down with (the council) and we can show them all of the contracts have a return on investment to them. Many of them have a big return," Kern said.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10

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