Vail Valley Voices: Why Vail is Vail
Ryan Summerlin October 8, 2012
Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from the Vail Homeowners Association monthly report. We publish weekly excerpts from the association, which keeps a close eye on economic and political trends in and outside of the town. The newsletter electronic version with links to supporting documents is available at www.vail
Vail came to international prominence because of two unique factors: the romanticized images conjured by skiing trackless powder in the Back Bowls and strolling its pedestrian villages.
The community maintains its dominance because it has sought to keep these images well polished as an ever-increasing number of consumers ply its slopes and byways.
During the Vail Renaissance building boom, $10 million-$15 million was spent on public and private streetscape improvements throughout the pedestrian areas of Vail Village and Lionshead.
These improvements have been put to good use as backdrops for large weekend festivals and events staged to attract price-sensitive in-state visitors during the economic recovery. The town’s efforts have shown success, as sales tax receipts have been on the upswing since July 2010, with the exception of a slight dip in April and again in August of this year.
Vail Resorts as well, prospered last ski season, even in the face of one of the most severe snow droughts on record.
This success was achieved in large measure by attracting day visitors or weekenders. To some strategists, the tactic was a bridge to gain time until the word spread of Vail’s high-end makeover. It was hoped that the sheer magnitude of the Vail Renaissance would set off a resurgence in its affluent destination guest market.
The image of a revitalized Vail spread through an international promotional strategy. The strategy worked, taking hold particularly in the Latin American market. Nowadays, the town of Vail’s marketing advisers are recommending steps to modestly transition the summer season to more extended-stay, out-of-state and international visitors. As a rule of thumb, it takes fewer extended-stay visitors to sustain the local economy. There is the added benefit that fewer visitors put less demand on public facilities.
It has been the desire for decades from factions of business interests and the municipal government to expand the community’s seasonal economy to year-round and to significantly increase the financial return from summer tourism. Improved sales tax revenues during the summer months reflect progress toward that goal. Therefore, the dampening effect from the anticipated marketing transition may never be felt, as two new concurrent economic development initiatives will most likely markedly increase both short-term and extended-stay visitations.