“Ever since there’s been a ‘ski season,’ a ‘mud season’ has followed. But the term ‘mud season’ has long grated on the sensibilities of those whose job it is to promote Our Fair Valley to the outside world.”
This is how our friends at the Vail Daily editorial board summarize our spring season, essentially blaming Mother Nature for being “mood-swingy” as a reason to close down shop.
CALL IT WHAT IT IS
Words matter. Using terms like “mud season” or “off-season” provide a negative connotation and image of the Vail Valley this time of year, reinforcing that there is nothing to do here.
Does mud inspire groups to book business the Vail Valley? Do brides want to plan their dream Vail Valley wedding? Not if you keep calling it “mud season.” Let’s call it what it is: spring.
HOW OTHER PLACES TREAT OFFSEASON
We’re not alone — plenty of destinations and resort communities face “mood-swingy” challenges from Mother Nature. You know this if you’ve ever been to Scottsdale in June, Las Vegas in July or Disney World in August — these places are scorching hot or unbearably humid. It’s not the best time to schedule your vacation. Yet the professional marketers responsible for positioning their destinations don’t use terms like “unbearably hot season” or “hot as Hades” or “really unpleasantly humid season” to describe their destination.
Instead, they call it what it is: summer. And then they work their hardest to attract (and take great care of) customers who might be willing to travel at these times of year and price their products and services accordingly.
Scottsdale’s tourism bureau handles this brilliantly: They own it. They don’t pretend to be anything they are not. Their website is completely straightforward: “We’re coming clean — summer in Scottsdale is H-O-T, hot. But even when the mercury tops 100 degrees, there are still plenty of ways to have fun and stay cool. Plus, you can take the sting out of triple-digit days with spectacular savings at Scottsdale’s finest hotels and resorts.”
Service still important in spring
Just as summer isn’t the peak travel season for Scottsdale (and never will be), spring — or as the Daily calls it, “mud season” — isn’t our strength nor is it our focus as a destination.
To be clear, I don’t know of anyone putting “marketing muscle” behind the spring season. We are all in agreement that everyone is better off building our peak winter and summer seasons. But we still have visitors who come here for vacations in the spring, and they deserve our highest level of service.
PERKS OF SPRING VISITS
Recent letters to the editor have addressed this in different ways, and the letter writers have brought up many valid points including the great dining options in the valley, as well as the fact that our spring visitors tend to know exactly what they are getting — a quieter village, great lodging rates, discounted dining options and retail stores that are closed or operating at limited hours.
There are times for all vacation destinations that peak more than others, and they are amazingly consistent, as they tend to match school vacations. The Christmas and New Year’s holiday, mid-February Presidents Week through the March spring breaks, the pre-Easter Semana Santa period and July 1 through Labor Day due to family travel are typically the peak season for vacations, regardless of your destination or location.
JUST CALL IT SPRING
We should all be in agreement that terms like “mud season” are unnecessary and counter productive. Yes, there are fewer visitors here in spring (and that’s OK). The free market is a wonderful thing as business owners and operators are free to decide what times to operate or close their business, what seasons to close down or stay open during and how much to discount their offerings to drive traffic. No one is suggesting otherwise or trying to change this reality.
My message to Don and the team at the Daily: Quit being negative Nancys and quit reinforcing negative images.
We’re certainly special, but we’re not unique. Words matter. Let’s join the rest of the world and quit using disparaging terms like “mud season” and instead just call it spring.
Chris Romer is president & CEO of Vail Valley Partnership.