Breck ponders $880,000 question
BRECKENRIDGE – You’d think every business owner in any tourist town would agree more cash for marketing is a good idea, but more than half of Breckenridge business owners disagreed in a survey conducted last month.As an example, Greg Guras, owner of A Racer’s Edge, doesn’t like how marketing funds are spent and therefore didn’t support the half-cent sales tax increase presented in the survey. The town contracts with the Breckenridge Resort Chamber (BRC) to supplement ski area marketing and attract summer tourism. The partnership is annually funded with about $880,000 generated through business license fees and a lodging tax.”The BRC helps much bigger players than the little guy like me,” Guras said. “Shops are a secondary place to visit so retailers have to market heavily ourselves.”Marc Carlisle, owner of Great Adventure Sports, is a former chamber member who quit the organization, like Guras, to better spend the money he would have paid in membership dues marketing his bike and ski shop. “We do so much stuff on our own, especially on the Web,” Carlisle said. “The BRC is not worth it as a marketing option.”Although the BRC serves two roles – as a chamber organization and a marketing team for the town – retailers who do not see value in membership also do not support increased marketing money.
Retailers like Guras and Carlisle would pay about $1,000 annually for BRC membership. “For the $1,000 or so I’d spend there, I can do a lot of creative stuff. I don’t get a lot of tangible return for membership,” Guras said.The town’s half-cent sales tax increase would have added another $1.2 million to the marketing budget but the question will not appear on the Nov. 2 ballot. Town leaders recognized a disconnect between “what the BRC does and what people in the community think it does,” said Rob Millisor, a member of town council and the BRC board. He dubbed the nay-sayers “a vocal minority.” He added, “The BRC hasn’t done as good a job as it needs to communicate what we’re doing.”How Breck’s marketing plan stacks up
In a comparison with other resort towns in the region, Breckenridge’s marketing budget falls somewhere in the middle. Steamboat spends $545,000 not including its airline subsidies, Vail spends nearly $3 million and the little resort town of Snowmass Village spends $1.6 million.In addition to about $880,000 spent by the BRC, the town also spends $1 million on special events. Those funds come from the $9.5 million general fund.Vail’s program is the most similar to Breckenridge’s. It relies on the ski company to market to winter tourists and charges a tax – a 1.4 percent lodging tax – to pay for summer marketing. The $1.5 million generated annually is administered by the Vail Valley Chamber and Tourism Bureau with an added layer of management provided by an advisory team that recommends ways to spend the money.The additional $1.4 million spent in Vail comes from the general fund and, like Breckenridge, is spent on events. The figure includes about $200,000 to operate visitor information centers. Vail’s elected officials also are contemplating whether the money is an appropriate figure and scrutinizing if spending is efficient, said town spokeswoman Suzanne Silverthorne.
Breckenridge elected officials want to get to the bottom of the marketing question, as well.Councilmember Eric Mamula, owner of Downstairs at Eric’s, was perplexed that the majority of business owners did not support more marketing funds. “For me, the marketing question needs more research,” Mamula said. “Is the BRC doing the right thing or not? Is it a lack of funds or not? Aside from this BRC question, where are we going with our marketing plan?”The town plans to host a forum to explain the marketing plan and hopes to receive feedback from community members, said town manager Tim Gagen. As of Thursday, a date had not yet been set, but Gagen said it is likely to occur in October and before the ski season kicks off. Kim Marquis can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 249, or at email@example.com.
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