OSCAR BUMP: Interest in Havasu explodes following awards gag

March 7, 2018 GMT

Lake Havasu City’s Days Inn has received hundreds of phone calls since Sunday, when comedian Jimmy Kimmel offered Oscar nominees the chance to win an all-expense paid stay at the hotel…if they could keep their acceptance speeches short.

Carly Fimbres, one of the hotel’s front desk managers, received calls throughout Monday by curious potential guests and journalists about the offer, which she says surprised no one more than the hotel’s staff, themselves.

“We were shocked,” Fimbres said. “Of all of the places to get a shout out at the Oscars…we’ve gotten so many calls about our hotel since Sunday night. We weren’t aware that (Kimmel) was going to say that. We definitely didn’t ask or pay him to give us a shout out…but we’ll definitely take the free publicity.”

Kimmel hosted the 90th Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday evening, when he offered the nominee who gave the shortest acceptance speech a free Kawasaki Jet Ski, as well as a two-day, three-night stay at Havasu’s Days Inn. The winner of Kimmel’s “competition” was costume designer Mark Bridges, who won his second Academy Award Sunday for his work on 2017 film, “Phantom Thread.”

“So far, he hasn’t booked a room,” Fimbres said. “But we’re anticipating his call.”

The mention of Lake Havasu City at this year’s Academy Awards brought national attention to the community, and Lake Havasu City Mayor Mark Nexsen expanded upon Kimmel’s offer in a Monday press release.

“Our residents appreciate that Jimmy Kimmel thought of Lake Havasu City when he offered a free trip to our beautiful community to the winner of his ‘shortest speech contest’ during the 90th Academy Awards Ceremony,” Nexsen said. “I would like to invite all of the losers at the Oscars to come visit us as well.”

Nexsen also offered to pose with Oscar nominees, if they should accept the city’s offer, for the stars’ personal mementos. As the $2 million grand prize winner of the America’s Best Community Contest, Nexsen said, Lake Havasu City has a lot to offer.

“We’re the home of the London Bridge, spectacular boating and beaches, the World Jet Ski finals, beautiful parks, world class fishing, very friendly people and so much more,” Nexsen said.

The Lake Havasu City Convention and Visitors Bureau has been advertising the city’s qualities for years, but according to CVB President Terence Concannon, international exposure at the Oscars was beyond what he could have expected.

“For an event like the Academy Awards, advertising ourselves would have probably cost about $2.5 million – that’s well beyond our annual budget,” Concannon said. “Most of our budget goes into social media, and not much of our advertising is on television. I feel great about it…it’s a wonderful thing.”

According to CVB web analytics, clicks for the agency’s tourism website increased by about 700 percent over February numbers. Internet audiences from across the U.S. and Europe have taken an interest in Lake Havasu City since Kimmel’s statements on Sunday night.

“We can’t know what this will do for tourism numbers in the future,” Concannon said, “But this is definitely going to increase Havasu’s visibility, and it is definitely going to affect occupancy when people visit. Because of the unique method of the message, on a show like the Oscars…you can’t buy that kind of publicity.”

According to Concannon, the CVB has extended an offer to Bridges to come to Havasu on Monday, with all expenses paid. Concannon also hopes that Bridges would be willing to speak to Lake Havasu High School and Arizona State University students while in the city.

Representatives for Kimmel and Bridges were unavailable to offer a comment as of 5:30 p.m. Monday.