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Resort Association to Seek Summer Business

March 03, 1985|LOU DESSER | Desser is news editor of the Times real estate section. and

MAMMOTH LAKES — Like most ski resorts across the country, this mountain community has always felt an economic pinch during summer months.

With this and other economic problems in mind, a group of local businesspeople gathered in October, 1983 to discuss how the community could better market and promote Mammoth Lakes. This led to formation of an ad hoc committee to study the possibility of creating a resort association.

After more than a year of study, the Mammoth Lakes Resort Assn. was formed early this year with two main goals:

--To develop more summer tourism.

--"Fill in" midweek with skiers to add business and create a better balance with weekends.

The association will also explore new ideas to increase spring and fall business.

With an initial annual budget of $450,000, the association will pool dollars and combine efforts for the internal and external marketing of Mammoth Lakes.

Until now, Mammoth Lakes has had zero dollars to market the resort, and competition has been increasing, said David L. Buckman, a member of the board of directors.

"Midwest resorts are pounding Southern California for the vacation dollar," he said. "We have about a million people come through here in the summer--mostly campers--but they don't spend much money. They're not as affluent as skiers."

Golf courses, tennis courts and convention centers will bring in tourists who will spend money in the community, Buckman said, but marketing efforts by the association will be needed to bring them here.

Funding of the new association has already begun, with 50% of the money allocated for external marketing, 30% for information functions and internal marketing and 20% for support services and facilities. Income sources are: $150,000 from the town of Mammoth Lakes, $150,000 from local developers and the Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, $125,000 from the business community (lodging, professional, retail and restaurants) and $25,000 from fund-raisers and miscellaneous.

Additional funds will come from an increase in the bed tax, according to Buckman. "Ultimately, we expect to have a budget in the $1-million range, rivaling Aspen and Vail," he said.

In Colorado, both Vail and Aspen have seen the benefits of pooling dollars. A $300,000 marketing effort in Aspen produced a 30% increase in trade the first summer.

But, investigation has shown that it will take two to three years before any significant results from the new marketing program are seen. Directors of the association have pointed out that understanding the economic climate and responding to competition with appropriate marketing strategies could make the difference between success and failure of many Mammoth Lakes businesses.

Even the skier market is changing, studies have shown. As older skiers drop out, the new ones replacing them seem to have different needs and priorities. Indications are that they are much more price-to-value conscious.

Advertising by the association in publications throughout the country will offer a toll-free phone number so that interested persons can obtain literature about Mammoth.

Another service of the resort association will be reservation referals. A computer system will disperse calls on an equitable basis and provide complete information about the area.

The association's governing board consists of seven members, two from the lodging community, two from the business and professional community, one from the town of Mammoth, one from the developers' group and one from the ski area. The chamber of commerce, also under the resort association's table of organization, will continue to coordinate and manage town events.

It will have a manager and seven-person commission appointed by the board of directors. The chamber will be responsible for visitor information services, community improvement, special town events, fund raising and membership.

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