Taking aim at tourists: Carson City targets Bay area with tourism promotion
Carson City tourism officials say their approach to attracting visitors to the area has evolved after the recession began more than two years ago.
The idea now is promoting packages and discounted attractions to potential visitors, especially in the Sacramento and Bay areas, said Candace Duncan, the executive director of the Carson City Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“We know that right now people who are traveling are really looking for a value,” Duncan said. “They’re still traveling, but they’re much more careful on what they’re spending and where they’re going.”
To capitalize on that consumer behavior, Bay area residents are getting a first-hand look at some Carson City tourism attractions on Sunday afternoons thanks to a new television program promoting vacation deals in the region.
The show, “Half Off,” and its corresponding Web site, http://www.watchhalfoff.com, features half-priced vacation deals in Carson City, South Lake Tahoe and the Bay area. It premiered earlier this month on KGO-TV, the ABC affiliate in San Francisco, for half-hour segments at 4 p.m. on Sundays. The program will air for 13 weeks and end in early May.
“I think they’re helping us, at least, keep our heads a little bit above water,” Duncan said. “I don’t think you’re going to see this huge bump, but we had to do something to help our lodging properties.”
The 14 local attractions that participated, which include local restaurants, golf courses and attractions such as the V&T Railroad, each gave the program producers $1,500 worth of vouchers to their business that viewers can purchase online for half off. In exchange, the attractions get inexpensive advertising in the Bay area.
“It’s an easy way to afford the out-of-market advertising,” said John Procaccini, the executive director of the Brewery Arts Center, one of the participating attractions. “Certainly in the Bay area you couldn’t buy that kind of exposure.”
Duncan said other businesses will have the opportunity to participate when the show expands into the Sacramento area later this year.
The show’s producer, Michael Orkin, said so far sales generated from vouchers featured in Half Off total $300,000, but have largely benefited businesses outside of Carson City.
“Sales have been somewhat slower than we hoped in Carson City,” Orkin said. “Carson City is a big time summer destination so we expect sales to pick up.”
Terrie McNutt, the director of sales at the Courtyard Marriott in Carson City, said the recession has forced hotel properties to market more than just beds.
“(Travelers are) not only cost conscious, they’re also travel savvy,” McNutt said. “They understand bargaining and they understand they want more than a room stay. So packages are very prevalent right now.”
Besides internal promotions at most hotel properties in Carson City, the convention and visitors bureau is also promoting discounted packages for Carson City-area attractions, such as the Carson City New Deals online coupons that are promoted in the Sacramento area in online advertisements.
There’s also Sweet Nevada Deals, which include coupons for businesses in Carson City and the Carson Valley area, and the Sisters in History promotion, which is a promotion partnership with the capital and Virginia City.
Still, it may take time before the local tourism industry begins to notice a change.
“I think that tourism in general is going to start looking a little bit better, but not a lot yet,” Duncan said. “It’s going to take two or three years until we see some real recovery.”