Mark Robitaille has spent most of his career in the tourism industry, and currently runs the Coeur d'Alene Convention & Visitor Bureau, which is part of the Chamber of Commerce. He shared his views about the Lake City's appeal, the importance of partnerships and how the CVB has been proactively responding to seasonal challenges.
1. At the heart of things
Coeur d'Alene is both a destination unto itself — the crystal clear lake surrounded by mountains and forests — as well as a destination conveniently at the center of other amenities.
"We're just a short drive from world-class skiing, the largest theme and water park in the Northwest and some of the best golfing, hiking, biking anywhere," says Robitaille. There's also proximity to Spokane International Airport and two major highways, which ensure easy access to Coeur d'Alene any time of year.
2. Partnering for growth
Idaho's Commerce Department has offered Travel Grants since 1981, funded through lodging tax proceeds and earmarked to promote tourism in recipients' regions.
"Since 2014, we've averaged 7.13 percent increases each year," says Robitaille. That translates to more grant money.
In the most recent grant cycle, CVB received $580,000 in state funds, plus around $120,000 in matching funds from industry partners, allowing them to target audiences with print, radio and television ads from western Montana up to parts of Canada, down to Tri-Cities and along the Interstate 5 corridor.
3. Responding to
Coeur d'Alene booms in the summer, yet from late fall through early spring — the "shoulder" seasons — activities typically occur indoors, so the CVB has been looking for ways to increase tourism year-round.
They've ramped up cooperative advertising with places like Silver Mountain (for skiing) and Triple Play (for the indoor water park). And from their survey of potential travelers, which revealed that folks want things to do, they've been spearheading more events throughout the summer, of course, but especially during the shoulder seasons. So you have the new Food & Wine and Mac n' Cheese festivals, as well as longtime favorites like Ironman, Car d'Lane, and the Holiday Light Show.
"Once people visit, they go back and tell their friends and family and it snowballs."