By Gabrielle Gasser ASSOCIATE EDITOR
BIG SKY – On the eve of another busy tourist season in Big Sky, the marketing and community management organization is shifting from relentless efforts to sell the destination to educating visitors on how to enjoy their Stay responsibly.
Today at the annual Visit Big Sky Marketing Outlook luncheon, presenters discussed the growth of Big Sky’s and the state’s tourism economy, and how that growth can be responsibly managed. About 60 business owners from a variety of industries came together to hear five speakers on topics ranging from how to use social media to drive business, what the state of Montana is doing to attract tourism, and how Big Sky can improve the visitor experience.
Brad Niva, CEO of the Big Sky Chamber of Commerce and VBS, shared in his presentation that in order for VBS to move away from marketing efforts, he plans to invest in projects to manage Big Sky as a destination and to improve the visitor experience.
“As Big Sky has grown, we’re having a capacity issue,” Niva said. “All our hotels are full, our restaurants are full [and] lift lines are longer. …our change… does not mean that we stop marketing, but we must continue to communicate with our visitors and thus educate them on how to be a good visitor.
Some of this communication will take the form of new wayfinding signage which Niva says is being updated, as well as the new “Love Big Sky Like a Local” education campaign which gives tourists advice on how to be respectful. He also announced that VBS was part of an effort to update Google Street View in Big Sky, which currently uses photos taken in 2015. Over three days in the first week of June, the 32-mile route of Big Sky will be recaptured to help visitors find their way around today’s Big Sky.
To support local businesses, Niva said it is working on a new website and tourism industry newsletter that will be distributed monthly to businesses and provide them with up-to-date Big Sky data to help inform staffing decisions.
In an effort to create visitor services and to more firmly play the role of destination manager rather than marketer, VBS in its FY23 application made a request for $333,600 to the Big District Council Sky Resort Area to get funds to build new public restrooms in Fire. Pit Park in the city center.
“We don’t use any resort fees for traditional marketing,” Niva said. “It will only serve the infrastructure and betterment of our community. »
After Niva’s presentation, Haley Walter, campaign director for Visit Montana, said the state is seeing record numbers in bed tax collections as well as growth across all regions.
The state’s goal based on that growth, Walter said, is public education and spreading the “responsibly recreate” messages.
Additionally, Walter said Visit Montana is working to promote the spread of tourists throughout the state to relieve pressure on high-traffic areas. The state will also transition to an “always on” marketing model, intended to support visits during the shoulder seasons.
Big Sky is the largest collector of the 4% lodging facility use tax in the state, according to data from the Montana Office of Tourism, raising a total of $4,948,727 million in 2021 , Bozeman in second place by raising $4,455,700.
Big Sky has “enough visitors,” Niva said, and now is the time to step back from marketing and focus on communicating with those visitors.
Niva said the Big Sky community has already done a good job of marketing and managing it as a destination and he wants that to continue in the future.
“It’s our job,” he said, “to continue to inspire people to take the time to work on their business and work on our experience, make sure our visitors leave here saying: ” I can not wait to return “.”