Vail Daily column: Is youth marketing the answer?
Ryan Summerlin January 8, 2014
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.vailhomeowners.com.
Many current special events are designed to appeal to the moderately affluent 25-44-year-old “youth market.” But one recent analysis shows a decline in Front Range visitations by that cohort. As a corrective strategy, another marketing analysis says the emphasis should remain on the Front Range consumer; it proposes that outdoor summer music, festivals and sporting events be staged earlier in the summer as the demand for events drops as the summer progresses. This may be wishful thinking, as early summer is prone to fickle weather conditions and the community has very limited outdoor, rain-sheltered performance venues. Few appear to be mindful that Vail is located in one of the highest annual precipitation regions in the state. Beyond that, the 25-44-year-old cohort has the least loyalty to any particular resort.
Sporting events, such as the Vail GoPro Mountain Games, are favored for their income generation by retailers and restaurateurs as well as by the town of Vail for improved sales tax receipts. However, they do not do as well at filling the hotels and lodges, which have plenty of excess capacity with average summer occupancy of 51.6 percent. Many lodges are condominium properties operated as a hotel or lodge and are owned by non-resident property owners. It is the drop in young adult attendance that has the town concerned. Some events like the USA Pro Challenge are good for building Vail’s international image via television coverage as a mountain cycling center, which will have, it is speculated, more long-term rather than immediate impact on generating local businesses revenues.
There are those who believe that the perception of summer overcrowding is a result of having free admission to mass spectator special events. Lodges and hotels gain little from short-lived events with free admissions or free parking. The circumstances may be approaching when, for reasons of crowd control, charging for admission and public parking may be a means to migrate toward venues that place quality over quantity. This may become much more of a factor once Vail Resorts normalizes attendance for its summer mountain attractions, which are now being developed. The key to controlling overcrowding that will sustain success is a combination of events and on-mountain attractions that will create a vibrant ambiance without turning Vail into an amusement park.
As an alternative to the “more-is-better” approach, some believe there should be less of an emphasis upon short-lived mass spectator events and a shift toward longer duration quality entertainment venues. Surveys show that these events are both athletic and cultural. A range of musical entertainment venues, some of which are integrated into athletic events, have, from experience, the potential to attract destination guests both during the week and on weekends. The advantage is that multi-day events that attract destination overnight visitors put guests in beds, which benefit residential property owners who desire to generate rental income.
Seemingly unacknowledged is an increase in affluent destination visitors in the 55-65 age bracket. Both the Bravo! Vail classical music festival and Vail Jazz Festival are weeks long, draw large, repeat, out-of-state audiences and appeal to a higher income adult age bracket. Both have shown a consistent ability to draw and retain longer stay destination guests, more so than the shorter duration, mass spectator sporting competitions.