Vail Valley Partnership's Shop Local initiative has been well received by the community since it was launched last month. We are happy to provide a voice to the importance of keeping our money in the local economy, and the opportunity to spotlight local businesses is an added bonus.
Obviously, local businesses are a key component to our continued economic vitality. In a region heavily dependent on tourism - and thus mother nature's whims - it remains paramount that we as a community try to shop local whenever possible to support our small business providers and our business-to-business service providers. The Partnership is committed to promoting local businesses and our local business community - not just retail, but professional services - as supporting small business is an important goal to ensure the continued economic growth of the Eagle River Valley.
The fact remains that tourism makes up over 50 percent of our economy and that number likely won't change anytime soon, so we need to recognize the need to continue to strengthen this leading industry. An important component of our tourism business is hosting groups and meetings; group business fills need times on our calendar and helps create compression in lodging properties to ensure activity throughout the year. Group attendees (of course) also participate in the various recreational activities throughout the year and frequent our restaurants and retail establishments. Group business remains a key strategy to continue our tourism success and is a key component to our non-ski season tourism growth.
The Partnership, via our Visit Vail Valley destination sales efforts, works to recruit and attract groups and meetings to the Vail Valley. Our group and event recruiting efforts resulted in over 55,000 occupied room nights in 2012 and we're shooting for even more in 2013 and beyond. Our group sales team is actively promoting our destination at industry trade shows across the country, working closing with stakeholders including the Vail Local Marketing District, Beaver Creek Resort Co., other municipal partners as well as our lodging partners. Our goal remains to increase lodging occupancies throughout the year with a focus on the non-ski months. Increased visitation, including mid-week during peak seasons, helps support our retailers, restaurants, activity providers and other industries that directly service our guests.
But what does hosting groups and meetings have to do with shopping local? Everything.
What you might not consider is that shopping local isn't just to support business-to-business providers and small businesses. Groups and meetings also have an important shop local component.
Our community is filled with professionals and second-home owners that represent their business interests on boards of directors and industry associations and who are well connected in their professions. Our community has a vast array of business leaders who travel in and out of Eagle County on a regular basis to attend industry meetings or business retreats.
Let's shift our thinking and encourage our community to consider shopping local for your group and meeting needs as well. By keeping your group and meeting program local or by bringing your national business retreat, association program or continuing medical education meeting home to the Vail Valley, you'll be supporting our local economy and creating jobs. The economic impacts, both direct and secondary, of bringing your meeting to the Vail Valley are numerous.
As noted by the US Travel Association, meetings, events and business incentive groups in the United States are responsible for almost 15 percent of all domestic travel. Nationally, groups and meetings are responsible for 1 million jobs and $27 billion in wages, meetings and events. Meetings and events support local communities and help create a year round tourism economy, filling the gaps in our tourism calendar and creating less dependency on mother nature and school calendars - something we cannot afford to overlook as we rebuild our economy.
The Partnership has long represented our community to the world at industry events, attempting to attract these group meetings and events to our valley; similarly, our business, medical, wellness and education leaders have long done the same within their industries, becoming brand advocates for our community. Let's tie those two things together, and shop local for our group and meeting needs. Imagine the possibilities.
How can your business participate? If you benefit from our tourism promotion, business services, collaborative programming and economic development efforts, it's time to get off the sidelines and join the Partnership. Membership starts at $1 per day. Visit www.vailvalleypartnership.com to learn more.
Chris Romer is the president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership.