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April 1, 2013
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Repeat business boosts Eagle County sales

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado - The holiday business report for Easter week is sunny as a spring day - hotels were full, restaurants and shops were busy, and people seemed to be in a spending mood. A lot of those guests were familiar faces to local business owners.

In Vail, Karats jewelry shop owner Dan Telleen said his own business was steady, if not spectacular, over the holiday week.

"Traffic through the store was nothing exceptional... but the overall winter was great," Telleen said. From his shop's storefront on Meadow Drive, Telleen said he's been seeing lots of people on the streets, and those people seem to be having a good time.

For Telleen, who's been making custom jewelry in Vail since 1970, staying in business is thanks in large part to his longtime clients, relationships he's forged over decades in business.

"I wouldn't survive without those old customers," Telleen said.

People who come to a lodge, store or restaurant come because they're familiar with the place, and the people in those businesses are well-served to recognize those repeat customers.

"You have to notice, and you want to cultivate those relationships," said Matt Morgan of Sweet Basil restaurant. That restaurant will celebrate 35 years in business this year. A lot of the people who have made the business successful return time and again when they visit Vail.

While no one will remember every customer every time, Morgan said it's crucial for businesses to acknowledge the people who make a place a regular spot when they're on vacation.

"That not only applies to Easter, but it applies for a lot of the winter," Morgan said.

For instance, Sweet Basil is an annual stop for a group of visitors who come every St. Patrick's Day.

"They book the same week, and even the same rooms," Morgan said.

Those rooms are reserved almost next door to Sweet Basil, at the Sitzmark Lodge. There, general manager Jeanne Fritch said the hotel - which has been in business since 1969 - sees a combination of repeat and new guests. Many of the long-time guests have been returning to the Sitzmark for years.

Keeping those guests coming year after year takes a combination of things - with a great product at the top of the list, of course. But, Fritch said, the hotel works hard to make guests feel "like you're coming home."

Back in the days of Saturday-to-Saturday stays - something becoming more rare in the lodging business - the hotel would host get-togethers to allow guests to get to know one another.

Some, like the St. Patrick's Day group, return year after year. But even guests who might skip a year or two can provide valuable references to first-time guests.

"It's taken years," Fritch said. "But we're very lucky in that people recommend us."

The Park Hyatt Beaver Creek is a much larger hotel than the Sitzmark. It also has the advantage of being part of an internationally-known brand. Still, there were plenty of familiar faces at the Hyatt over spring break and Easter.

Sales and marketing manager Scott Gubrud said "close to half" of all the hotel's guests over the past three weeks have been either long-time or recent repeat guests. In fact, one family just finished its second visit this season, he said.

Like others interviewed for this story, Gubrud said connecting with people - and providing great service - are keys to earning repeat business.

"When you talk to guests, it's about seeing Beaver Creek and the hotel as an experience," Gubrud said. That comes down to the way guests are greeted and treated, from handling room and activity arrangements to turn-down service.

And, of course, having well-groomed snow helps. A lot.

"The snow this year has been a Godsend," Gubrud said.

Fritch, who took a few runs Monday morning, agreed. Even after a week of heavy use on the slopes, "conditions were fine," she said.

Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or smiller@vaildaily.com.


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The VailDaily Updated Apr 1, 2013 11:25PM Published Apr 1, 2013 11:21PM Copyright 2013 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.