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01102012 winter by the numbers
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Winter by the Numbers: How are we Faring?

The Wyoming Office of Tourism is promoting winter online this year. Planned advertising impressions are up 135%, with only a 25% increase in budget. They are three months into a four month long online winter sweepstakes which began October 1, 2011 and will end January 31, 2012. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort partnered with JH Air to offer two sweepstake packages to Jackson Hole including air, lodging and lift tickets. The first sweeps ran October 1-November 30 and was awarded to a family of four. The second sweeps will run until January 31 and will be awarded to a couple.

Alan Dubberley, Deputy Director with the Wyoming Office of Tourism explained, “We definitely have an uptick in sweeps entries so far this year. As of January 2 we have eclipsed the number of sweeps entries for the winter campaign for all of 2010-11. So far this year we have 10,790 sweeps entries and last year for the entire campaign we had 10,540… we will continue to collect entries through the end of Jan. The goal for this year’s sweeps entries is 16,850.”

Recent media exposure and a few big snow storms have helped. A 35 inch dump of snow to most people is a hassle requiring back-breaking work with a shovel. In Jackson however, it means business... good business. That 35 inches of snow over the week of Christmas allowed Jackson Hole Mountain Resort (JHMR) to have the best two week holiday period the resort has ever experienced. It doesn't hurt that Colorado and Utah are experiencing a lack of snow comparatively and that JHMR has invested $2.5 million in snow-making equipment over the past couple years.

With 123 inches of snow so far this season, Jackson is cautiously optimistic for the remainder of the season. "What makes us nervous as marketers is the trend toward last-minute bookings," said Chip Carey, Chief Marketing Officer of JHMR. "Several people came in without reservations over the holidays, making it hard to predict what our sales are going to be."

International visitors also make up a good percentage of visitation to JHMR and while a breakout is not yet available on foreign visitors; anecdotal evidence suggests international visitation was good over the holidays."We're cautiously optimistic about the season at this point, but we're keeping our nose to the grindstone marketing-wise," Carey added.

When it comes to the air travelers into Jackson, December showed a 5% increase over 2010 with 20,521 deplaning passengers compared to 19,549 in 2010. As for January through March 2012, advanced air reservations are sitting around 1 point behind the same time last year. Advertising messages around the great snow conditions and great airfare deals available are being created and deployed in an effort to push that number beyond last year's figures.

According to Rick Hoeninghausen, Marketing Director for Xanterra Parks & Resorts, traffic to Yellowstone is pacing similarly to last winter except for a new tour series from Tauck Tours in collaboration with Ken Burns. "The new series is called Ken Burns American Journeys, and it will bring an additional 1000 room nights to our winter season," said Hoeninghausen. He went on to add that Xanterra's Getaway packages and Lodging and Learning packages remain popular choices for visitors as well.

In Laramie, advanced reservations were looking good, but along with Colorado bordering to the south, the lack of snow has them off to a slow start. Fred Ockers with Albany County Tourism explained, “Traffic to hotels in Laramie in December was a little slow, but we're hoping a winning men's basketball team will help drive some traffic to Laramie over the next few months. We really need snow to get the ski resort and snowmobile trails full.”

In Casper, Aaron McCreight, Director of the Casper Area CVB said, “By our lodging tax deposits we are doing really well this fiscal year. We're up 14% over last year. Looking at winter alone it still looks strong. Our December Stay & Play packages are up 45% over December of 2010. Hogadon hasn't been open long enough to get year over year comparisons, but will have those soon.” Casper just landed a peewee hockey tournament for early March which is expected to boost numbers during a normally slow time.

In the Big Horn Mountains, we checked in with Rick Young at the Bear Lodge Resort. He said December was the best ever since he purchased the resort in 1993. Booking were up 221% over 2010. He attributes this year’s success to early snow. “We have had better snow than we've seen in a while and all of the trails are ready to go. There is no snow in the Midwest and that is helping a lot. Everything seems to be working in our favor right now. Everything was full up here on the mountain over the holidays.”

Terri Swift, Director of the Pinedale Chamber gave us an update on that area. “The Wyoming Range has been getting tons of snow recently so the snowmobile trails are filling up and hotels seem to be hitting occupancy projections.”

“We are looking forward to tabulating final numbers for this winter season,” summed up Dubberley, “and let’s hope Mother Nature continues to aid in our marketing and promotional efforts.”

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