It's important to note that Vail doesn't (shouldn't) close down when the mountain closes for the winter season. Vail is a year round resort destination and we have visitors coming throughout the year - even during the dreaded "off-season."
While mid-April and May are typically viewed as the shoulder season, we still have visitors coming to the valley and these visitors still tell their friends and family about their Vail experience. These guests still post photos to Facebook to share their experiences and they still spend money while visiting. As such, it's important to our community that we don't turn off the lights when the mountain is no longer operating. Bob Boselli, business owner in Vail and Beaver Creek (among other mountain resort areas) said it best when he stated "not only does staying open benefit our guests, but also your employees and the businesses bottom line."
Did you know?
• May occupancy is pacing over 86 percent above last year (source: MTRiP)
• May 2012 lodging occupancy was 17 percent - while still a relatively small number compared to our peak months, 17 percent occupancy means there are over 700 paid guest rooms every night, equaling over 1,700 daily visitors. As noted, we are pacing well above last year so it's likely we'll see many more than 1,700 overnight visitors on average.
• Guests spend upwards of $300 per day during their stay (source: summer intercept study). That's over $210,000 in daily spending by visitors during the shoulder season.
• In May of last year, sales tax increased 2 percent, lodging tax increased 2.5 percent and food and beverage tax collections increased 14.8 percent. Businesses open during this time benefited with increased cash flows.
In addition to our leisure guests looking to enjoy their time in the mountains, Vail Valley Partnership is actively recruiting various groups and meetings to visit us during this time of year. Group and meeting attendees only spend 17 percent at their lodging property - your business needs to be open to capture the other 83 percent of their spending. Businesses being closed during this time of year, when the lodging properties and others work so hard to attract groups and meetings, is detrimental to the guests overall experience and reflects poorly on their Vail experience, decreasing their intent to return to our community for future group programs.
Our numerous special events drive significant weekend oriented traffic throughout the summer and fall months, and our signature events such as Bravo! Vail and the Vail International Dance Festival drive wonderful public relations and tourism throughout the peak months. However, groups and meetings are the foundation to our non-ski success as a destination. As a destination, we're fortunate to host a variety of groups and meetings during the April and May timeframe and it's important for our businesses to be open to accommodate these groups. A small sample of groups coming during the months of April and May include:
• Colorado Association of Realtors: April 8-11.
• Future Business Leaders of America: April 22-24.
• Rotary Club: April 25-28.
• Christian Meetings and Conventions Association: May 7-8.
• Rocky Mountain Electrical League: May 19.
These groups alone will result in over 3,500 visitors and 7,500 room nights and do not include the numerous other medical conferences, business retreats and group meetings taking place in April and May. These groups and meetings choose Vail in part due to our vibrant mountain villages - which requires a vibrant retail and dining experience.
Ralf Garrison, founder of MTRiP (Mountain Travel Research Program) and expert on mountain resort tourism trends stated "some of the more established mountain destination resort communities are approaching a tipping point, where there is more upside growth in the historical lower shoulder seasons (i.e. spring and fall). And during these peak-valley transitional initiatives, it becomes imperative for a minimum critical mass of core businesses to remain open for business, as opposed to the once-traditional Moab-Mexico-Maui exodus. Gratefully there are more than a few hidden benefits (for the businesses) in so doing; staff retention, seasonal transitions, training, momentum and service consistency (visitors and locals alike) among them. And, since many of the ongoing costs are fixed, it can be a pleasant surprise to the top line revenues."
Help keep Vail vibrant on a year round basis. Stay open for business and help create a wonderful experience for our guests and our meeting attendees - with the added benefit of improving your business.
How can your business participate? If you benefit from the Partnership's group sales and tourism promotion efforts, consider joining the VVP. 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.