Big idea from small town wins national recognition |

Big idea from small town wins national recognition

Pat Patera

A homegrown tourism idea put Virginia City in the winner’s circle alongside campaigns rolled out by big time tourist markets like Tempe, Ariz. and Anchorage, Alaska.

The Silver Line Express Ticket program, submitted by the Virginia City Convention & Visitors Authority, won the award in the Best Idea Program at the annual conference of the Western Association of Convention & Visitors Bureaus.

Yet the Silver Line advertising budget was minimal, says Susan Sutton executive director. Two small ads ran in Gold Country Media, a newspaper organization serving California residents. And a brochure was printed and distributed through Certified Folder Display, which stocks tourist rack cards.

Since June, tourists bought $28,000 worth of tickets in the Silver Line program, a package of tickets to Virginia City attractions.

The idea proved so successful, says Sutton, a truncated version will be offered for the winter season that includes admission to a museum, mansion and mine, plus a trolley ride.

Next year the Silver Line will add a child-price ticket. And Sutton plans to get Reno-area hotels involved in promoting the tickets. “If tourists take an extra day to tour Virginia City, that guarantees the hotel another night,” she says. “That’s our marketing focus for spring.”

The Silver Line ticket package was develop-ed because tourists to Virginia City rarely got off the wooden sidewalks downtown and so missed all the other attractions in the historic town 23 miles from Reno.

The Silver Line ticket packages were priced at $10, $21 and $36.

For $10, a visitor got a 35-minute ride on the Virginia & Truckee Railroad, a narrated ride on the Virginia City Trolley Tour and a package of discounts from merchants. The $21 ticket added admission to four attractions the Ponderosa Mine Tour, Mackay Mansion, Fourth Ward School and The Way It Was Museum.

And the $36 ticket billed as the “all inclusive” version added admission to the Nevada Gambling Museum, Mark Twain Museum, Piper’s Opera House, Chollar Mine and Virginia City Radio Museum. Also included in the all-inclusive ticket was 2-for-1″ Cemetery Gin” drinks at participating saloons.

This is the second time in three years the Virginia City bureau won the tourism marketing award. In 2004, it stood in the spotlight alongside Hollywood, Calif. That was when its Vir/Gin promotion, funded with about $900, ranked alongside a tinseltown effort powered by a budget of $150,000.

A grant from the Nevada Commission on Tourism helped fund the promotions.