VAIL — In recent market research, results showed that Vail is widely recognized by people all over the world as a summer destination that is beautiful, family friendly, luxurious and cultured. Also a plus: Vail was widely recognized among international guests.
The bad news, however, is that other mountain resort towns are quickly closing the gap as desirable warm-weather spots.
“Vail is doing well and has a huge brand recognition,” said Ellie Chadwick, of branding company Goodness Manufacturing. “But other resorts are quickly encroaching.”
Each resort area had its own strengths. Among the respondents of various surveys, Breckenridge was recognized as family-friendly and a good value, while Aspen was recognized as having big, iconic events and more affordable lodging. Park City was known as an adventure playground, where thrill seekers could do a variety of activities in a single mountain area.
So the race to stand out in the summer months is on, and Vail officials have a plan — capitalize on already popular summer events and start researching exactly who might be the ideal candidate for a Vail summer vacation.
“I’m not surprised at all with these results about summer marketing,” said Davy Ratchford, member of the Vail Local Marketing District Advisory Council and director of marketing and sales at Vail Mountain. “People are catching onto the fact that there are great summer opportunities in the mountains. We already have more than what other areas can ever hope to have because of the nature we have here. But other people are bound to catch up.”
That’s on the mind of marketing specialists who are looking ahead to launching a summer advertising campaign. Goodness, a California-based company that recently came on board to work with the town’s marketing staff, wants to do more research to find who is the right audience for these efforts.
“Our hunch is that there are a pool of people out there right now who are Vail folks that we’re not talking to yet,” said Chadwick. “Are we more interested in putting more money into getting more people here in general or talking to a specific crowd?”
Marketing district advisory council chair Beth Slifer said that Vail should find who its target demographic is and find out the kind of people who visit or have second homes in Vail.
“We should be exploring who are our second homeowners ,” she said. “In Aspen, it’s the L.A. and entertainment crowd. With Nantucket, you think of Wall Street. Here, it might be business leaders and Fortune 500.”
Ratchford added that while Vail’s has always been labeled as a family destination, it’s important to market to people who might be future visitors.
“We put marketing dollars all over the world,” said Ratchford. “There will always be a mix of the folks who have the means to come here, but there will always be other people from different walks life who will find Vail attractive just because it’s Vail.”
Marketing brand-name events is another part of making Vail a classic summer destination, the council agreed. Vail is home to a number of well-attended, established summer events, but some of those events have yet to become synonymous with Vail. Aspen, for example, may have fewer events throughout the summer than Vail, but what events it has are widely known, such as Jazz Aspen Snowmass and the Aspen Food & Wine Festival.
Slifer suggested that just the presence of such events is enough to draw people to the area, whether or not they are attending the events themselves.
“I know people who go to Aspen and say they go for the music, but they don’t attend a single music-related thing.,” said Slifer. “It’s about perception and bragging rights, sometimes more than the event itself.”
Vail does have several summer events that could become nationally renowned attractions, said Sybill Navas, of Vail’s Commission of Special Events.
“I think we do have real signature events, and it’s a matter of how we use those in the same way as Aspen,” she said. “GoPro Games, Bravo! Vail and the Vail Dance Festival are nipping at the heels of those (Aspen events.) No one disputes that Bravo! is an international event. I think it’s a matter of getting more mileage out of those signature events.”