Businesses say Vail Fourth of July week seems busier than normal
By the numbers
30,000: Current best estimate of Vail America Days parade attendance.
9,000: Best estimate of people at Beaver Creek’s Fourth of July celebration.
60: Floats in the Vail America Days parade this year
4 percent: Increase in overall July lodging occupancy over 2015.
VAIL — “Christmas in July” may overstate how busy Vail is this week, but it’s not far off the mark, either.
Anecdotal reports indicate that Vail has been buzzing since the start of the Fourth of July holiday weekend. That’s not unusual, but this year may be a little different. With the actual holiday falling on a Monday, there may be visitors who have decided to make a week of it.
“We’re trying to make it a special week,” town of Vail Economic Development Director Kelli McDonald said. “That seems to be resonating with people.”
That resonance is showing up in lodging reservations.
The town contracts with Denver-based firm Destimetrics to track lodging occupancy, rate and other data. According to that data, Vail’s summer reservations made by May 31 were tracking ahead of 2015’s numbers. For the month of July, those made-in-advance reservations ran 4 percent ahead of 2015’s pace. That doesn’t count reservations made closer to guests’ time of travel, but it’s still encouraging, particularly since summer reservations tend to be made closer to travel dates.
Annie Lynch is the director of hospitality sales and marketing at Timbers Resorts, a Carbondale-based company that manages the Sebastian Hotel in Vail.
Lynch said occupancy at that hotel is running ahead of 2015 for both the holiday week and July as a whole.
“It’s really busy right now,” Lynch said. “We’re not quite at Christmas level, but we’re at a good mid-winter occupancy.” That level is more than 80 percent occupancy, Lynch said. Normal summer numbers are in the 70s.
The Cascade effect
While occupancy numbers are solid, Lynch did have a word of caution. The Vail Cascade Hotel & Spa is closed this summer, undergoing a full renovation. That closure has taken 286 rooms out of the town’s lodging inventory.
“When you have 300 rooms out of commission (guests have to) go somewhere… If this lasts into next summer, that will be great,” Lynch.
Beyond Vail being well established as a summer destination, McDonald said there are other factors that might be driving Fourth of July business this year, including an earlier start to the summer’s Bravo! Vail concerts and the debut of Vail Resorts’ Epic Discovery suite of on-mountain activities.
Reached by phone mid-week, McDonald said she’d been at a lunch meeting in Vail Village, and “the town feels busier — there’s a vibe out there,” she said.
At the Claggett-Rey Gallery in Vail Village, Bill Rey has seen the Fourth of July week crowds. He agreed that the village has been particularly busy this week.
Beyond that, though Rey said the Fourth of July is the start of a particularly busy six or seven weeks.
Everyone who’s partial to the valley to begin with knows it’s a wonderful place in the summer,” Rey said. When the Fourth of the July comes, Vail sees all its visitors, Rey said — second-home owners, short-notice visitors and day visitors from the Denver area.
The vibe McDonald felt in a mid-week lunch was a carry-over from a particularly busy weekend: A restaurateur Rey knows reported doing a record number of lunches Sunday.
Seven busy weeks
That level of buzz in Vail lasts into roughly mid-August, when kids go back to school and the Vail International Dance Festival holds its last performance.
“In some ways it’s better than Christmas,” Rey said. “This is a seven-week run and Christmas is just two weeks.”
While Beaver Creek is nearby, the village there doesn’t have the same kind of buzz found in Vail.
Park Hyatt Beaver Creek General Manager Robert Purdy said Saturday and Sunday were busy, with the hotel fully booked. But Monday’s room numbers were off, due in large part to the number of people who had to work the day after the holiday.
Still, Purdy said, around 9,000 people made it to Beaver Creek for that resort’s celebration, and the Hyatt’s food and beverage receipts were up “considerably” from 2015.
“This week we’re in good shape,” Purdy said. “But we’re not sold out.”
Back in Vail, Rey said the period that starts this week is a lot of work, but well worth the effort.
“Everybody’s happy to be busy,” Rey said, especially following what many retailers say was a lackluster winter. And there’s still time for fun.
“On the Fourth, by 2 (p.m.) or so it quiets down a lot, and by 3:30 (p.m.) I went to a barbecue with some friends.”