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Eric Thompson of the Salt Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau Talks Skiing and Marketing

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The Salt Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau is an organization in the Salt Lake (Utah) area that works on promoting the local ski and snow board locations. Recently, they teamed up with Brickfish, which is a social networking advertising site, to promote their Ski Salt Lake campaign. I interviewed Eric Thompson, the bureau's marketing director, about both the campaign with Brickfish and the Salt Lake CVB itself.

What is your position within Salt Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau? What exactly does your position entail?

I'm the Director of Marketing for the Salt Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau. I direct all advertising and marketing efforts to attract visitors, skiers, and conventioneers to come and stay in the Salt Lake Area.

Tell us a little about Visit Salt Lake. What are your goals? How do you guys function?

We are always trying to drive traffic to our site but are an organization that is funded by room tax dollars and we have overriding goals to get people to book and stay in Salt Lake. We have other products such as the Ski Salt Lake Super Pass and the Visit Salt Lake Connect Pass that allow visitors to experience some of the great attractions that Salt Lake has to offer.

Room tax dollars? Can you expand upon that a little more please?

Our organization, like most CVBs or tourism organizations, is mostly funded by an extra tax that is placed upon a hotel room. The Salt Lake CVB receives about 2% of an overall 12.75% tax that is levied on a hotel room night's stay. So it would make sense that our main goal and purpose of our organization is to generate additional Convention and Tourism room night visits into the Salt Lake Area.

As odd as this might sound, I would like to ask you to advertise for the Super Pass. What does it entail and why should people use it?

The Ski Salt Lake Super Pass is a lift ticket product that can be loaded with two to six days of skiing within a seven-day period at can be used at any our Ski Salt Lake resorts (Alta, Brighton, Snowbird, Solitude). It also includes free round-trip transportation on UTA Ski Buses and TRAX light rail. Besides not having to rent a car the Super Pass can save you a lot of money. The average adult skiing four days and using the bus will save $68.

Tell me a little about the campaign that you are working on with Brickfish. How did you come up with the idea? What are your goals with this campaign?

We have been engaging more and more in the social media channels and Brickfish creates a unique product or promotion that can gauge the effectiveness and show the power of social media through one simple promotion. At a time where budgets are shrinking promotions like these can hopefully expose many to our great winter destinations and at a great value.

Share with us some interesting submissions that have been submitted so far for the campaign. What do you like about them? What is likely to capture your interest and win the campaign?

No matter whether it is a photo or video, people seem to be having fun in snow. That is what we are all about and we embrace the awesome winters in Utah and hope visitors will do so as well. I would say that creativity of the photo or video will certainly play a roll in who wins and it is hard to not like the blooper type of video. We should have a lot of entries to choose from. Here are some early favorites:

What was it like having the Olympics in such a close location? Did it help business, or harm it? Do you have any good Olympic stories to share with us?

The 2002 Winter Olympic Games was an amazing event that seemed to gather steam each and every day. Each night was a party and Salt Lake was a transformed city. I remember having fun with the Norwegians at the Nordic events, the Dutch at the Speed Skating, the Americans at the Half pipe event, and everyone at the medal ceremonies each night. I would say the greatest benefit from the Olympics is the validation that Salt Lake is a world class winter destination. And it is not that we weren’t before the games but an Olympics can certainly communicate that message to the world. We have seen a spike in international travel as well as domestic travel and our state ski visitation has set records for the last three years running.

If you could go skiing/boarding anywhere in the world, where would you want to go? Why would you want to go there?

Is this a loaded question? [Note: Yes] I have had the opportunity to ski many places in the world and when the snow is good you can have an amazing time on skis or a snowboard anywhere. However, I choose to live where I do because of the frequency and amount of snow that falls. In fact, today I was able to take off this morning and get about 10 runs of amazing skiing at Brighton and make it back to my office in Salt Lake by 1:00pm. I don’t know anywhere else where you can do that and live in a major metropolitan city… Mmm, now that I think about it, I do like Heliskiing in Chile in August when we don’t have any snow in Utah.

I am a skier. Tell me, do you like skiers or boarders more? Are you a skier or a boarder?

I do both. I mostly ski because I like to look for off-piste skiing and secret stashes and that is harder to do on a board but once in a while it is great to strap on a board have a different feeling on snow. I enjoy XC skate skiing as well. It is a great workout. As long as you are sliding on snow and having fun.

Would you like to tell us about anything that has not yet been covered?

I truly believe that skiing is one of the best sports activities for families. As a parent, I couldn’t wait until my kids and I could share a chairlift together. You can’t get that kind of experience playing golf or tennis or even biking, but skiing in the mountains is a great experience that should be a tradition for all families.

How is the powder out there right now?

We have just come off of a week of a lot of powder. Our base depths are fantastic and now we are expecting a week of sunshine. Today (January 16) it was about 30 degrees and not a cloud in the sky. Next storm is forecasted for Thursday. Maybe we’ll see you here!

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About Robert M. Barga