Early summer bookings up | VailDaily.com

Early summer bookings up

Scott N. Millersmiller@vaildaily.comVail, CO Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY – The Vail Valley’s tourism business depends on weather, the national economy and a lot of other things beyond our control. Still, the summer season looks pretty strong right now.Early bookings for June through September are up 15 percent from last year, according to the Vail Valley Partnership, which tracks reservation numbers across the valley. Better yet, Partnership executive director Chris Romer said numbers for both Vail and Beaver Creek are about equal at this point.Those positive numbers are being seen at other mountain resorts, too. Ralf Garrison, of the Mountain Travel Research Program, a Denver-based consulting company, said occupancy numbers are showing double-digit increases in early reservations across the high country.Rob Henderson is the regional director of sales and marketing for Destination Resorts and Hotels, which operates the Vail Cascade Resort & Spa. Henderson said that lodge is riding the current trend of a better-looking summer, saying the Cascade’s reservations for June through September are up “significantly.”Those reservations cover the range of guests, Henderson said, from the weekend-getaway crowd to corporate and wedding groups.Henderson said one of the drivers for this summer’s reservations could be people wanting a “Vail fix.” Those people didn’t come during the winter because of lackluster snow but still want to get up to the valley, he said.Then there are the events.Romer said people pushing summer tourism in the valley have made a real effort to stretch the summer season, scheduling events earlier in May, and later into September and October.”Ten years ago, summer didn’t really start until the Fourth of July,” Romer said. “Now, we’re pushing that season,” something that’s been reflected in May lodging numbers.Events are often seen as a lure for visitors. Romer said the valley’s increasingly packed event calendar is, in its own way, similar to fishing, golf or cycling.”It all gives people something to do while they’re here,” he said.While events and activities tend to drive weekend visits and group business tends to fill rooms during the week, the Vail Valley is becoming more of a vacation destination. About half of all summer visitors come from outside Colorado. That share may increase thanks to Vail Resorts’ efforts to tap markets in Mexico, Brazil and elsewhere for summer visits in addition to ski trips.All those efforts have contributed to something local marketers have long sought – creating a summer “brand identity” for the Vail Valley similar to the one it’s long had in the winter months.The goal – which stretches over the course of decades now – is to try to equalize revenue for the summer and winter. Winter has long represented two-thirds or more of sales tax revenue for the valley, and that gap has been viewed as something to correct.But even with more events and a growing customer awareness of the valley as a summer playground, Garrison said it may be unrealistic to expect the summer/winter to close completely.”Despite summer’s growth, you still have a relatively short season,” Garrison said. “Even if occupancy is the same, lower rates and a shorter season mean winter will probably look better.”