Carson convention and visitors bureau adapts to changing market

The tourism market for Carson City is evolving, so the promotional efforts of the Carson City Convention & Visitors Bureau are changing along with it, according to bureau Executive Director Candy Duncan.

Duncan said the changes range from what the bureau features in its print advertising to the effort being devoted to marketing the community through its Web site.

But the focus remains, as it has for years, on sharing the community's historical, cultural and outdoor recreational assets rather than promoting Carson City as yet another Nevada community with gaming, she said.

"Because we've always done that, I don't think Carson City will be as affected by Indian gaming in California as will, say, the Reno market," Duncan noted.

"We leave the marketing of gaming to the casinos here and they do a very good job at that.

"They, in turn, appreciate our efforts to bring tourists into the community, some of whom will visit their properties."

On the near edge of summer, Carson is again moving into the busy tourist season that features several special events almost every weekend, from the Memorial Day weekend's historical Kit Carson Trail Wild West Tour through June's Carson City Rendezvous, July's Silver Dollar Car Classic, August's steam-ups at the Nevada State Railroad Museum, September's Basque and Salsa Y Salsa festivals and October's Nevada Day celebration.

"We like to help publicize all the events in community, but our focus is to help fill the hotel and motel rooms so we concentrate our promotional efforts on events that draw tourists into the community," Duncan said.

The bureau is supported mainly by an 8-percent room tax on hotel and motel rentals. Last year about 250,000 room rentals generated $772,000 in room tax revenues for the bureau or about 90 percent of its budget.

An increasingly important promotional effort is aimed at golfers, she said.

"We like to bring in golf tournaments for several reasons. For one, golfers are not confined to weekends. They'll come any day of the week and stay several days," Duncan said.

"And golfers historically spend a bit more than other tourists. They generally like to go out to have a nice dinner and they like to shop while they're here.

"You know, in some ways it's really a disadvantage for us that we are so close to everything. It means that lots of tourists that come for the weekend events just make it a day trip instead of filling a hotel room. Or they decide to stay in one of the big hotel/casinos at the lake or in Reno and then drive down to visit us.

"But the golfers really appreciate it that they can stay in town and be just 10 or 15 minutes from any of the course, our 'Divine Nine.'

"The courses have all now matured and we don't have anything to apologize for in quality of either the courses or our golf packages."

The bureau's ads in Nevada Magazine will now feature golf as a main attraction of the community, while still promoting historical and cultural activities.

Besides the bureau's funds, Duncan said, the golf marketing campaign is financially supported by all the area golf courses, the Nevada Commission on Tourism and seven local hotels and motels.

That helps with the allocation of the bureau's funds, she said. That allocation is an important issue for the bureau.

"For instance, we've found out that a Web site is critical if you want to attract tourists and it's not like a print publication where you can publish it and say it's done for the year," she said.

"We are constantly updating the Web pages, adding events and links and people are always calling us to add more. On top of that, a Web site has to be promoted properly so people know it's there and can find it and that's a constant expense.

"We haven't had an increase in the room tax rate for years so, essentially, we have a fairly fixed income and there are always more events coming along that people want us to promote. For the past five years, we've been putting $50,000 into the V&T Railroad project and that comes right out of our advertising budget," she said.

But Duncan said the proposed reconstruction of the Virginia & Truckee Railroad from Carson City to Virginia City will become a reality and be a major boost to local tourism.

"The V&T will be something we can point to that no one else will have," she said.

Duncan said Carson City's future holds three foreseeable challenges related to tourism, with the V&T being the largest.

"The second is the completion of the bypass. Our surveys have always shown that traffic has been the biggest concern expressed by our visitors. If someone driving through can't find where to park or see what's going on, they'll just drive on through to the next community.

"We'll have to have our signage in place so people know how to get into town, where to park and what they can do when the pull in here," Duncan said.

The third challenge is establishment of a seven-day-a-week visitors center in a central location," Duncan said.

She said the visitor center run by the Carson City Area chamber of Commerce by the railroad museum does a good job but is only open weekdays, mainly reflecting on the needs of chamber members. But it is away from the community's downtown core.

"We probably won't be able to get a space right on Carson street because we need enough room for recreational vehicles to park, to put in grass and tables so people will get out and relax and see our promotional materials," she said.


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