Hired consultant will help guide CVB three-year strategy

Filed under: Daily News,Print,Tourism | Tags:, ,

The Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau has hired a consultant to help rev up its marketing strategy.

President and CEO Doug Price is scheduled to discuss part of the CVB’s branding strategy during an informal City Council meeting Monday.

“The resulting brand platform will provide direction and focus for our advertising, promotion and sales initiatives,” Price wrote in CVB’s 2010 Stakeholders Report, released April 27.

The CVB confirmed that it had hired a consultant to advise it on branding efforts and a three-year strategy. However officials declined to name the consulting company, saying “deliverables” had not yet been prepared for public release.

Hiring a consulting firm is common practice in the hospitality and tourism industry, said Dan Cormany, a visiting professor at Florida International University’s School of Hospitality and Tourism Management.

He said the consultants help with the use of social media and offer critiques of promotion campaigns.

But calculating the return on investment for hiring a consultant can be difficult, he said.

A better calculation is ROO, or return on objective. The question to ask is whether the consultation is satisfying specific goals.

“This may be in an immediate increase in area tourism, a reshaping of the area’s image (and) even an increase in the pride and desire for participation in tourism by local residents,” Cormany said.

An investment in that pride and desire might be justified, considering how much is riding on the issue.

About 13,000 El Paso County residents work in the tourism industry. Last year 5.5 million tourists visited the county, spending $1.192 billion dollars, according to the stakeholders report.

CVB estimates that its promotion of the region last year resulted in “a direct economic impact” of more than $187 million.

Under the leadership of Price, who started in January after the retirement of longtime CVB chief Terry Sullivan, the organization hopes to increase that figure by implementing local and national marketing campaigns.

In June, CVB plans to unveil the three-year strategy for tourism growth in the region.

The CVB launched several campaigns recently toward that end.

On April 28 it unveiled “Tank Full of Summer Savings” at www.VisitCOS.com/fuel. The effort is an attempt to help travelers deal with the nationwide spike in gas prices, which in Colorado are averaging $3.67 a gallon.

Tourists visiting the site will find links to websites where they can calculate travel costs to Colorado Springs and surrounding destinations, and pinpoint service stations with the lowest gas prices.

“People want to take their summer vacations, but may think that they can’t afford to,” Amy Long, CVB vice president of marketing and membership, said in a statement. “These tools will help them find the lowest gas prices as well as money-saving deals to offset the higher cost of getting here.”

CVB’s marketing strategy includes conveying to the public the economic value of tourism to the Pikes Peak region.

This month, it plans to rent three billboards that will digitally display, in real time, the money coming to the region from tourism, Price said in the report.

The report claims that the region’s tourism has rebounded from 2009. It bases this assessment in part on the 5.1 percent increase last year in LART, or Lodgers and Automobile Rental Tax.

The tax is used to fund CVB and other organizations that promote the Pikes Peak region. In 2010, the tax funded 74.5 percent of CVB’s $2.5 million budget.

Last November, the Pikes Peak Lodging Association Board of Directors criticized a proposed increase in the LART tax. “We do not believe the business climate is receptive to any type of increase,” the board said. “More importantly, an increase in the LART is unfair as it would single out one industry for an increase.”

The LART funding issue may be a reason why CVB is using a consultant.

Cormany said it’s common for consultants to weigh in on such issues.

“The funding source (may want a) full review of operations as criteria for continuing or expanding funding.”