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Social Media Gives Eastern Resorts an Advantage: Parker Riehle Interview

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Parker Riehle is the head honcho over at the source of all things maple and snow, Ski Vermont. Continuing the “perspectives” interviews I started a few weeks ago, I was able to ask Parker a few questions and get his perspective on the changing landscape of ski resort marketing, especially how it relates to resorts on the east coast.

SlopeFillers: Quickly tell us a little bit about yourself and your past involvement in the ski industry as well as the goal of your current involvement, Ski Vermont.

Parker: I first came on board Ski Vermont in 1998 as the Director of Governmental Affairs and in 2006 was named President where I oversee all aspects of the association, including governmental affairs, marketing and public affairs. The goal of Ski Vermont is to promote Vermont as the premier winter vacation destination on behalf of all of our alpine and nordic ski areas, in order to ensure the future growth and sustainabililty of the industry as an iconic part of the Green Mountain State’s unrivaled brand identity.

SlopeFillers: Being involved with Ski Vermont and the East coast scene, what is the biggest change is ski resort marketing you’ve seen over the last 10 years?

Parker: The biggest change in marketing since I first landed here would definitely be the internet and e-marketing. Online banner ads were just being developed then and the primary marketing tools were direct mail and print advertising. Another striking evolution can be found in our press kits. They were once literally just that – a massive binder of printed material that was shipped by mail. That was then reduced to a then-cutting edge CD-ROM, which then evolved to a USB flashdrive, which has now evolved into nothing tangible at all — simply an address link to our online press room.

SlopeFillers: That’s a fun progression consider, especially in the time it took to go from binders to websites. That said, where do you see the next phase of resort marketing heading?

Parker: Social media continues to be the growing frontier in terms of untold capacity and possibilities. Because it is so extremely interactive, we are moving carefully and iteratively given the immediate feedback you get on what the consumer will accept versus what the consumer will be totally turned off by.

SlopeFillers: With social media taking the spotlight, what resort marketing trends or methods do you expect will be the first to fade away?

Parker: I think it will continue the trend of less emphasis on print, however an interesting dynamic has developed over time that has somewhat brought that full-circle: with the reduction in direct mail over recent years due to the advent of online marketing, direct mail is once again considered very effective since when it is used, it is not received in a massive pile of junk mail and therefore has greater notoriety and penetration with the consumer. But it is still extremely expensive compared to online and social media options.

SlopeFillers: With social media on the rise and print taking a bit of a back seat, what specific marketing challenges are resorts in the East going to be facing over the next decade compared to their high altitude counterparts in the west?

Parker: In terms of marketing challenges for the East vs. the West, the reality is that the advent of social marketing actually provides an advantage for the eastern resorts who are within driving distance of the populous metropolitan markets given that skiers and riders continue to make their travel decisions at the last minute, and the nimble, real-time social media communications have a more compelling impact on those decisions than on travel decisions that depend on lead time for booking an airline flight. The challenge that the entire ski industry faces is the critical need to get the younger population into skiing and riding in order to ensure the future sustainability of the sport and the social media outlets are perfectly oriented to that demographic.

About Gregg & SlopeFillers
I've had more first-time visitors lately, so adding a quick "about" section. I started SlopeFillers in 2010 with the simple goal of sharing great resort marketing strategies. Today I run marketing for resort ecommerce and CRM provider Inntopia, my home mountain is the lovely Nordic Valley, and my favorite marketing campaign remains the Ski Utah TV show that sold me on skiing as a kid in the 90s.

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