Rob Sabo
Northern Nevada Business Weekly

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April 9, 2012
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Golf a cornerstone in tourism marketing effort for Tahoe, Northern Nevada

RENO, Nev. — Northern Nevada isn’t as well known as Scottsdale, Ariz. or Palm Springs, Calif. as a golf destination — but that could change.

Golf dovetails perfectly with the Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority’s new “What’s Your Passion” marketing campaign, says Chris Baum, president and chief executive officer. The RSCVA will begin incorporating the region’s golf offerings into more of its marketing messaging, Baum says.

Large events such as the Reno-Tahoe Open at Montreux Golf and Country Club and the American Century Championship celebrity tournament at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course in South Lake Tahoe are the region’s top golfing-related tourism draws. But Greater Reno-Tahoe has many diverse and well-respected golf courses that also serve to draw tourism dollars to the region, Baum says.

“We have a terrific golf product here, but we are not as well known as a golfing destination, and that is something we are focused on moving forward,” he says. The “What’s Your Passion” campaign plays on tourists’ favorite pastimes, from gaming to shopping to recreation. Golf will play a large part in future marketing messages, Baum says, with the goal of increasing the region’s prominence as a golfing destination.

Golf also is one of the options that is being promoted to conventioneers and meeting attendees as an activity they can partake in while in the region.

“The goal is to have people consider us the same way they would Palm Springs or Scottsdale — and the weather is better here in the summer,” Baum says.

Television coverage of the two premier tournaments — one at scenic Lake Tahoe, the other at Montreux’s pristine mountain setting — helps promote the destination better than any marketing messaging.

“The Reno-Tahoe Open is a great way for us to get that word out, and every time we are on the air we are the only destination that has its name in the name of the tournament,” Baum says. “The commentary about the beautiful surroundings, the weather, all those things get seared into the mind of the golf audience to check out our destination.”

Greater Reno-Tahoe also benefits from its diversity of entertainment offerings. Scottsdale is a golfing-only destination whereas Palm Springs also has world-class shopping districts. But northern Nevada has a more well-rounded slate of things to do once visitors leave the course, Baum says.

“So many destination resorts are primarily golf resorts, but we have much more to offer, and going forward we can tell a good story for people to pick Reno-Tahoe as destination they have never considered before.

“It is a very strong asset for us, and people will be seeing a lot more about golfing in the Reno-Tahoe region moving forward.”

Phil Weidinger, owner of Weidinger Public Relations at Stateline, is accustomed to telling the story of the region’s golf courses — he’s organized the annual Golf High Sierra Media Tour for the past 13 years. The tour is geared to better associate media representatives, especially those that cover golf, with the best courses in northern Nevada.

Weidinger says that over the past few years stories generated from the tour have reached nearly 30 million readers and viewers on average as far as circulation coverage of the various media outlets.

The value of those media placements has an annual advertising equivalency of about about $500,000 to $600,000, Weidinger adds.

The Golf High Sierra Media Tour hosts primarily media members from major markets and areas that have direct air service to Reno or neighboring drive-in markets.

“We have been able to generate a ton of exposure for the courses here that really couldn’t afford that kind of advertising,” Weidinger says. “We are reaching people in a lot of golf-specific outlets and leading dailies.”

The RTO, a PGA event, may be the region’s premier tournament, but most of the biggest names in golf compete at the World Golf Championship’s Bridgestone Invitational the same week. The celebrity tournament at Edgewood remains the fan favorite and draws players and tourists far and wide. NBC broadcasts the event.

“Where else can you see Charles Barkley, Michael Jordan, John Elway and Tony Romo at one time?” Weidinger asks. “That is one of the appeals of this event. The celebrities like seeing their friends from other sports and they can have some fun. You have the lake, the casinos across the street, and there usually is a big concert on that Saturday at Harvey’s Outdoor Arena. It is a perfect spot.”

Bryan Davis, marketing manager for Edgewood, says attendance is on the rise at the American Century Championship — a contrast with much of Lake Tahoe’s tourism business, which has struggled with declining numbers since the start of the recession.

The six-day event held in the third week of July drew a record 41,000 fans last year, Davis says a 9 percent jump in attendance from 2009 levels.

“Attendance has been growing, and it kind of surprises us,” Davis says. “We get quite a draw from Northern California, and a lot of the locals like to come up as well. The event is a good time — it’s only $15 mid-week and $25 on the weekends. It is an affordable event.”

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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Apr 9, 2012 12:06PM Published Apr 9, 2012 12:04PM Copyright 2012 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.