Tag Archives: Chamber of Commerce

A new year, and Meadows — and Chamber — pursue new winter tourism marketing efforts

27 Aug

Let’s talk tourism. In particular, let’s talk about the longtime marriage between Mt. Hood Meadows and the Hood River County Chamber of Commerce to promote tourism during the winter.

To use the tabloid vernacular, after 15 years of wedded bliss, the two parties are splitsville.

Since introducing its winter marketing program, Meadows has pooled its funds with co-op dollars from the Chamber’s Visitor Council and buy-in funds from Hood River County hotels that wanted 1) publicity in Meadows marketing efforts, and 2) the chance to sell their winter guests discounted lift tickets.

The current Visitor Council budget includes $30,000 to pay Meadows for its efforts last winter. But Meadows chose not to ask for support this year.

It’s just one of several changes around the winter marketing effort. Meadows will stop producing and distributing 110,000 copies of its destination guide. The $25,000 cost for that publication, plus administrative costs for managing lift ticket sales, suggested the need for fine tuning.

“We couldn’t verify that it was essential to skiers’ decision-making,” says Dave Tragethon, marketing vice president for Meadows. “One to two percent of people said they used the guide.”

Instead, it will print 15,000 copies of a magazine, and make it available online via PDF. Advertising in that magazine will be opened up to anyone — not just Hood River County properties.

As Meadows goes it alone, it isn’t bailing on Hood River county lodgers. People who rent rooms — everyone from B&Bs to the county;’s largest hotel, the Best Western Hood River Inn — will still be able to buy in to the discount lift ticket program.

Ticket prices for hotel guests will rise from $39 last year to $49 this year for adults, which compares with a planned walk-up rate of $69 for a single shift ticket, or $74 for the day-night combo. Lodging properties now can add $1 to the ticket price to cover their handling costs, something they couldn’t do before.

But Meadows is now charging lodging properties a flat $1,500 to participate. For hotels, that represents a savings when you know that previously, they paid $50 a room. For the Hood River Inn, that meant it paid over five times the new rate to cover its 158 rooms.

The basic buy-in rate for smaller properties was $300. Owners of B&Bs weren’t happy to see their costs quintuple, especially in a down economy when room occupancy has declined.

Mary Pellegrini, owner of the Old Parkdale Inn, raised her concerns with Tragethon. She understands his rationale, that a single fee treats all properties the same, since each got the same exposure in Meadows’ marketing efforts.

But she doesn’t see all lodging properties having equal potential downstream benefit. Her property, for example, has three rooms.

During better times, she says, she would sell from 30 to 50 rooms a winter through the Meadows program. “It was definitely a good program for us,” she says.

In the last couple of years, she figures it has helped her sell just 15 to 20 extra rooms during the winter. She doesn’t blame Meadows. It’s the economy, plain and simple. Fewer people stay. And those who do sometimes stay fewer days.

She figures three of those 15 to 20 rooms would cover the buy-in under the old rate plan. Now she would be lucky to break even.

After hearing her concerns and those of 18 other B&B owners affiliated as the Columbia River Gorge-Hood River Bed & Breakfast Association, Meadows modified its policy to let the association buy in at $1,500. But it will have to handle disbursal and accounting for sale of all lift tickets.

For at least one vacation rental property management firm, the new pricing model limits potential value of the marketing alliance to its own business.

“There is a limit as to how much our guests are willing to pay for a ski ticket to make it worth their while to come to Hood River for a ski vaca as opposed to another area,” says Libby Taylor, of Hood River Vacation Rentals. “We are nearing that limit. In the past, Meadows’ discount lift tickets were a good value.”

Meanwhile, the Chamber is taking a new tack with the money it won’t be putting into the Meadows program. New marketing coordinator Kerry Cobb has developed what she calls the Bundle Up for Winter promotion. It will be promoted with rack cards, distributed through normal point-of-pickup channels. The meat of the promotion will reside online, after the Chamber launches its new web site (they hope in October).

Visitors will be able to click on a “deals” icon and see a list of lodging properties and member businesses offering specials or packages for winter guests. They can print out a coupon to capture the deals. The promotion will run November through March.

Cobb presented her idea to the Visitor Council on Wednesday, Aug. 25, and got strong support to charge ahead. Tragethon, at Meadows, thinks that’s great. He believes the winter marketing effort helped shift public perception about Hood River as a winter destination.

He said the first year that Meadows discounted lift tickets for lodging properties on both sides of the mountain, maybe 85 percent of purchases occurred on the south side. In the last year, 70 percent of sales were in Hood River.

Maturation of the city as a year-round tourist destination — with fashion, art, jewelry and sporting goods shops, the burgeoning wine and craft beer industries, and abundant fine dining — the city is on the radar of winter tourists.

“Portland gets Hood River,” Tragethon says. “I think Hood River is a normal and natural place for an extended stay. Fifteen years ago, downtown Hood River didn’t have the same appeal that it does now.”

Media, media, we got the free media

11 Jun

Props to Jamel Badrieh, marketing director at the Hood River County Chamber of Commerce, for providing the summary list of all the various publications tooting the Hood’s horn this past month. Such as?

Well, separately we told about The Oregonian on June 7. Articles also appeared in the Metro Parent magazine on staycations, in Golfer Magazine about Indian Creek and its Audubon sustainability efforts, the Oregon Wine Press cover story for June about Hood River wines (and in April, about Springhouse Cellars), the Wine Press NW summer issue, in Farms & Ranch Living last February on the beauty of small-town HR, Terry Richard in The Oregonian on the twin tunnels bike path, plus others mentioned earlier.

Coming up, a Top 120 Fourth of July Family Roadtrips article with focus on HR, writers coming to town from the L.A. Times and N.Y. Times, and a potential plug on local wines in Wine Enthusiast magazine (I tossed an idea that way about the under-the-radar tour potential of the Columbia Gorge AVA.

There’s more going on. Good job, Jamel, working to share the allure of the area.