Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Preparing for Summer Visitors

Part 2
By Kate McAlister

Summer started early for us this year; let’s hope it stays until October.  With the beautiful weather we’ve been experiencing it’s easy to see why visitors make this a destination.  After they meet us, it’s easy to understand why they come back year after year. The combination of scenic beauty and our friendly, thoughtful community is exactly what travelers are seeking; an authentic, fun experience.

Last month we talked about the demographics of our visitors; where they come from, how they heard about us and what are they looking for when it comes to using their precious vacation time.  So how do they spend the most money when they get here?

When I asked Melody Circo, Chamber Visitor Center expert, where visitors spent the most money, without hesitation she said, “Visitors who come to Sandpoint for a few hours or a couple of weeks will most definitely spend money on dining, shopping and entertainment.”

According to the State of Idaho and the commissioned Longwoods report, when it comes to spending, more than half of every visitor dollar is spent on “food, shopping and entertainment”. They could have saved money and asked Melody because she was right on the dot with her answer. In 2008 total spending in the state from overnight visits equaled 1.8 billion dollars, yes ‘billion’.  Overall visitor expenditures included $502 million for lodging, $412 million for food and beverage, $333 million for retail, $298 million for transportation and $218 million for recreations/sight-seeing and entertainment. 

Domestic and international travelers to Idaho spent $3.5 billion and generated $499.7 million to federal, state and local governments, dollars helping fund jobs and public programs such as police, firefighters, teachers, road projects and convention centers.

• The 26,000 jobs created by travelers to Idaho represent 4.0 percent of the state’s total non-farm employment.
• Without these jobs generated by domestic and international travel, Idaho’s unemployment rate of 4.9 percent would have been 8.3 percent of the labor force.
• For every $1 million spent in Idaho by domestic and international travelers, 7 jobs are created.  1 in every 8 jobs is tourism related.

 Idaho’s tourism industry has been growing faster than the national average and since 2003, has grown by 22.9%, contributing over $3 billion to Idaho’s economy. 

The Idaho Travel Council, a division of the Idaho Department of Commerce Tourism Division, awarded almost $3.2 million in grant dollars in August 2012 to 28 organizations to assist them in promoting their regions. The grant funds come from the bed tax and total lodging tax receipts are dispersed as follows:
  • 10% to administration of the tax
  • 45% to fund travel promotion statewide
  • 45% to the region from which it came as travel and convention promotion grants
The Idaho Travel Council (ITC) is made up of eight individuals appointed by the Governor for three year terms, representing the seven regions of Idaho plus one member-at-large.  This group determines the rules and regulations around state tourism and also determines the grant awards.

For us, the grant writing process starts in late February with our Tourism Sandpoint Council – Visit Sandpoint, as we discuss our marketing strategy for the coming year. All grant funds have to be spent out of the area to encourage travelers to visit our communities. Our ads appear in publications such as: Outdoors NW, The Swerve (in Calgary), the Inlander (Spokane), Horizon/Alaska Air, NW Travel and others.  All ads list upcoming events in the area to lure visitors to town.  We are also responsible for our award winning visitor guide; we won best in state in 2010 and 2011.  This year, 2013, we won best website in the state for

Our Chamber Tourism Council is made up of 15 members representing; lodging – 5, Retail – 3, Activities – 3, Public Relations and media – 3, and a BID representative.  This group is a closed council and businesses have to be a member of Visit Sandpoint to be eligible to be on the council.  This council is democratically run and majority rules. 

The first round of the grant is submitted on April 25th each year and presented in the first week of May at the State recreation and tourism conference.  Final submission is the first Monday in June.  We find out what our award is the first week in August.  The Chamber receives 10% of the grant for grant administration, as you may guess there is a terrific amount of paperwork and time spent throughout the year to comply with State regulations.  Last year we requested $231,000 and were awarded $111,137.  For 2014 we are asking for $267,700.

We all do a tremendous regarding tourism and I cannot tell you how much I appreciate all the hard work that goes on all summer.  Visitors add to our economic vitality substantially and help raise the tide for those who work on the frontlines whether serving food or being at the front counters in retail. If we can raise their standard of living, we all benefit.

That’s tourism in a nutshell for our area.  If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us here at the Chamber. We will be talking about the visitor experience at the June 13 General Membership Luncheon.  Our very own Melody Circo will be there to tell what visitors experience when they arrive at our door.

Here’s to a great visitor season. Remember, it’s about Succeeding Together! See you around town!