As discussed last month in this column, collaboration is one of my favorite words. The following quote (recently shared with me) sums up my thoughts concisely and accurately: “Cooperation is working together agreeably. Collaboration is working together aggressively. Collaborative teammates do more than just work with one another. Each person brings something to the table that adds value to the relationship and synergy to the team. The sum of truly collaborative teamwork is always greater than its parts.” — John C. Maxwell’s “The 17 Essential Qualities of a Team Player.”
Collaboration has the ability to help us “fight above our weight class” in almost every example. It’s a beautiful thing when adopted and utilized.
But some of my least favorite terms/phrases deserve their place in the sun as well. These words and terms raise the hair on the back of my neck and result in unseemly looks when mentioned in meetings. After all, the words we use every day matter.
“Heads in beds:” Are we that jaded and self-satisfied that our visitors are simply “heads in beds?” As a community that depends on destination tourism as our major economic driver, we can certainly show a wee bit more respect and appreciation for our guests than simply referring to them as “heads in beds.” I recognize that this is an industry term and it is easily understood as a measurable outcome to our destination marketing efforts, but that doesn’t change the fact that heads in beds is a term that doesn’t celebrate our guests.
Instead of referring to our guests as heads in beds, how about we all agree to simply refer to them as visitors or destination guests?
“Offseason,” also know as “mud season:” I get it — we work hard during the peak winter and peak summer seasons. Retail stores are overrun with customers, the frontage road and surface parking lots are full on a regular basis and it’s tough to get that 7 p.m. dinner reservation at your favorite restaurant. Life is good at these times.
And then we close down. Huh? Only in a ski town do we have the assumption that we’ve earned an “offseason.” Consider our overnight guests or day visitors who are looking forward to a Vail or Beaver Creek vacation experience in our spring or fall seasons — these guests (often group/convention attendees) are still looking to spend money and are likely to return with families during our peak seasons if they have a great experience.
Instead of using the term offseason, let’s simply refer to our seasons the way the rest of the world does: spring and fall.
“Downvalley” and “upvalley:” I recognize these terms are likely never going to go away and are rarely (if ever) said with any type of acrimony. That being said, it is a lazy term and does us no favors as it creates a needless separation within our community. Each town and neighborhood in the valley has its positive attributes and its challenges. Yet each town and neighborhood, together, help to collectively make this the successful community that we are today. We are completely interdependent on each other — Vail and Beaver Creek depend on Gypsum for the airport to service our destination guests and second-home owners; Gypsum and Eagle residents are just as likely to work in Edwards or Avon as they are in the town they live in.
Instead of upvalley and downvalley, let’s simply recognize that we are one community with individual towns and neighborhoods that are interdependent on each other for our mutual success.
Our choice of words is a significant issue. Communities (and businesses) that are self-centered or (unintentionally) derogatory in their choice of words are likely to not treat their guests as well as ones that are guest-centered. Or, to generalize, communities (and businesses) that are self-centered still don’t get it: they still lack empathy and understanding of the point of view of their stakeholders.
Little clues including the words we use on a daily basis to describe our visitors, our seasonality and ourselves help to define how we view our future opportunities. Words matter.
Clearly, each of these terms has a long history in our valley and arose from the need to simply describe things in an easily understood manner. But that’s no excuse; words matter and it’s time to remove these words from our collective vocabulary.
Chris Romer is the president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership.