Be upbeat, Vail business leaders say |

Be upbeat, Vail business leaders say

Matt Zalaznick
Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL. Colorado ” Excellent customer service and a positive attitude will help Vail, Colorado businesses return quickly to prosperity when the country’s recession ends, business leaders said Tuesday.

“Being desolate and being depressed isn’t going to help. Being upbeat and having fun will ” guests pick up on that,” Antlers General Manager Rob LeVine said Tuesday at a panel discussion about business strategies held the Vail Chamber and Business Association at the Vail Golf Course.

Sales figures and other data have shown that while business in Vail is down, it is faring better than most other major ski resorts in North America. That local activity is critical, LeVine said.

“People do not want to go on vacation to a ghost town or anything close to it,” he said. “We’re poised to return to where we’ve been more quickly than anybody else.”

Craig Cohen, an executive with the Solaris complex under construction in Vail Village, said people come to Vail to get away from the world’s troubles.

“Vail is still a place people want to come to escape,” he said. “When they come here, they’re looking for relief. It’s our responsibility to provide that positive ski town energy.”

Joe Walker, of Vail Sports, says his company’s ski shops have put even more emphasis on customer service, even going so far as to customers’ shoes on boot warmers while they’re renting ski boots.

“We don’t want guests to see any perceptible drop in guest service,” Walker said. “If we treat them right now, the same people will patronize us when the economy gets better.”

LeVine added that customer service should be a town effort. Conceding that his hotel has left the occasional guest unsatisfied, he said he tries to help when his guests say they’ve have a bad experience elsewhere in town.

“On occasion we hear horror stories about some other place in town, and we try to cover for them,” he said. “If we hear a guest had a bad experience at a restaurant, we give them free movies for the rest of their day.

“It’s covering each other’s backs,” he said.

Walker, like others on the panel, said a change in consumer spending habits had forced his stores to discount merchandise and hold sales during times of year ” December, for instance ” when sales had rarely been held before.

Discounts, however, will lure customers to Vail, now and in the future, he added.

“You have to discount, take that hit, and increase market share,” he said.

The panelists also agreed that businesses have to be creative and make themselves stand out, and be savvy with marketing efforts. LeVine suggested Vail businesses could work together to lure more wedding business.

He said there are 18 weddings booked for the summer at the Antlers. There were 23 last year. Vail should promote itself as the place to get married to offset drops in corporate group bookings.

“Sometimes we have an opportunity to explain why are product is different,” he said. “It’s important we all differentiate our products as best we can.”

Kelli McDonald, the town of Vail’s economic development manager, said a study comparing lodging occupancy rates in Vail to other major North American ski resorts show Vail was the busiest in December and second-most busiest in January. Projections say Vail should be the busiest resort throughout the spring, she said.

“It’s not great news, but it reflects that we are doing less bad than other resorts,” she said.

Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 970-748-2926 or

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